By Jeff Zeringue / Louisiana Logger
Just about every father hopes to pass something of value to the next generation, hoping that the legacy started will live on. For Clay and Craig Ingles, the hand-off came a bit abruptly, but they are rising to the challenge.
The Ingles brothers are carrying on the family business of logging to another generation at a young age. Clay, 31 and Craig, 24, have transitioned Ingles Logging into two companies: Clay Ingles Trucking and JCI Logging (the JCI stands for Jamison Craig Ingles).
Wallace Wayne Ingles ran Ingles Logging for 35 years before his death in June 2018. A few years before, Wayne Ingles helped his sons get started in showing them the ropes of running their own businesses: managing people, jobs, taxes and all that goes with operating a logging company.
“He taught me everything,” Clay Ingles said, which included more than just running a business.
One of the important things the younger Ingles learned from their dad is bigger doesn’t always mean better. It might not have been by direct instruction but by experience.
“Dad grew (the business) fast,” Clay Ingles said. “He had 15 crews and I figure he had 70 hands.”
The sons said they remember family vacations when they were young. Oftentimes the family would be out enjoying themselves and soon their father would receive a business call. That meant he spent a lot of the time on the phone taking care of a problem at work.
“There was so much going on,” Craig Ingles said.
“It was so much stress,” younger brother Craig Ingles said.
That stress is what the brothers fear had affected their father’s health. About five years ago, Wayne Ingles fell ill at the shop and was taken to the hospital, the brothers said. It was determined ulcers were the cause of his illness. Soon after his condition improved and everything returned to just about normal.
Almost as quickly as the illness subsided it returned. This time, however, the ulcers could not be cured. Then, only a few days short of his 60th birthday, Wayne Ingles succumbed.
In continuing their father’s legacy, the Ingles have downsized considerably.
“I don’t want (the business) to get that big,” Clay Ingles said.
Clay Ingles Trucking handles mostly thinning jobs and operates two crews. JCI Logging does mostly clear-cut operations with two crews; however, both can handle practically any kind of harvest, said Eric Kirk, a harvest manager for Weyerhaeuser.
“What’s unique about them is their age; they’re so young,” Kirk said. “They always knew what they were going to do. They would keep the Ingles Logging tradition of their dad going.”
Another important lesson Clay and Craig learned from their dad was how to keep good employees, Kirk said.
Many longtime workers who worked for Wayne Ingles remain on the job with Clay and Craig Ingles. That longevity, in turn, helps this new generation of Ingles develop as business owners, Kirk said.
The younger Ingles agree as many of the people on their crews have been there for many, many years.
Lloyd Womack, for example, was a foreman for Wayne Ingles for several years. He’s been a Master Logger for almost 20 years and decided to stay on for the young Ingles after Wayne passed.
On a rainy December morning, as the men gathered at the Ingles’ office in Winnfield, Womack talked about how he knew Wayne Ingles from their grade-school days. As a younger man, Womack was working for a company that took him up north for several days at a time. One day while mowing his grass, Wayne roared up in his big pickup truck and pulled right up to the riding mower.
“I thought I was about to get into it with somebody,” Womack said. “I didn’t know who it was, but when he stopped and came around the truck, I thought, ‘Oh hell, it’s Wayne.’ ”
A short conversation later, Womack was off with Wayne to a job, where Wayne subsequently left him. It wasn’t long after that Womack joined Wayne full time and stayed on when Clay and Craig took the reins.
Like all loggers, Clay and Craig face the difficulties of paying huge insurance premiums. They have installed GPS devices and dash cameras in all of their trucks. The devices also will send notices to their smartphones if there is a sudden stop, something out of the ordinary or even speeding.
“If they brake hard or there’s heavy acceleration, it sends a video of it to me,” Clay said. “If you got a new driver, you can watch and see how he drives.”
That system enables the Ingles to make sure drivers are operating their vehicles safely.
“If I see them doing something that’s not safe, we’ll call them,” Clay Ingles said.
The Ingles also hold weekly safety meetings for all of their employees, teaching and reminding them to work safely, which benefits the business but also encourages them to become good longtime workers, such as Quin Hemphill, Robert Johns, Paul McCarty, Lloyd Womack and Wayne Womack.
Those were the leaders for Wayne Ingles who have transitioned to carry on their leadership for Clay and Craig Ingles. And in 2019, that experience was essential.
“Last winter was a horrible winter,” Kirk said. “We were able to build a lot of trust with them. ... Thankfully this year is going better.”
“They get the most value out of every tree they cut,” Kirk said.
Off the clock, the brothers continue their picking on one another. Surely they did the same growing up from competitive boys to competitive men.
“I’m a better hunter than he is,” Clay Ingles says with a sly grin to his brother, prompting Craig to give an eye-roll and a chuckle. A little later, he’s asked about fishing.
“Yeah, he’s a better fisherman than me,” Clay laughs. “I’ll give him that.”
Despite the spirited ribbing of one another, Clay and Craig are doing well to fill the boots of a man they credit with teaching them about business and about life.