By Jeff Zeringue
Josh Jenkins walked off the stage after earning his high school diploma and into the woods to work full time with his father, Johnny Jenkins, and brother Buzz Jenkins. That was 1997.
In the many years since, Josh and Buzz have been the learning of the tutelage of their father about logging, managing people and keeping a good business going.
“I knew what I was going to do,” Josh Jenkins said. “I didn’t aspire to go to college. I graduated high school and went straight to the woods.”
Buzz Jenkins followed the footsteps of his father, first earning a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern State University. After working the occasional Saturday and on holidays while in school, the brothers pretty much hit the woods full time together. Buzz now handles the company’s logging jobs with Boise while his brother handles its jobs with Weyerhaeuser.
The close-knit clan shares in the responsibilities of the business, as well as the decision-making, though Johnny admits he is stepping back a bit from day-to-day operations.
“I’m never going to retire,” Johnny Jenkins quips, “but my name is going to be different than it’s been on that equipment.”
Josh and Buzz, though, rely on their father’s experience and wisdom to help them along. The three maintain mutual respect between generations
In all, the fourth-generation loggers handle six logging crews that consist of three or four men. Three of the crews work primarily with Weyerhaeuser while two others work primarily with Boise. The final crew works primarily with Hancock. Although Johnny Jenkins separated its logging and trucking operations, creating Johnny Jenkins Trucking in 2004, the men still maintain a fleet of 22 trucks. In all, they employ 55 people, and include health insurance for their employees.
Like the generational change from R.J. Jenkins, Johnny’s father, to Johnny Jenkins in 1982, the transition that is being made to Josh and Buzz has its challenges.
“We argue like anybody, but he respects us and we respect him. He’s never been pushy, hard-headed but not pushy,” Josh said as both men get a chuckle from the ribbing. “He listens to our ideas. Sometimes we go with our ideas and sometimes we go with his.”
Josh and Buzz appreciate the experience and wisdom of their father. They can call him and explain a situation, allowing Johnny Jenkins to share how he handled a similar situation and offer advice.
During the interview, Johnny gets a business call. He handles it with ease and sets up a solution while Josh again emphasizes the value of his father’s experience.
“His wisdom is more valuable to our company than anything, the youngest Jenkins said.
“I’ve never looked at it (an advisory role) from that perspective. I mean, I do more talking than working, if that’s what you’re asking,” the elder Jenkins said with a grin.
Johnny still maintains his CDL and from time to time fills in on the equipment or picking up parts when needed.
When he’s not helping out with equipment and such, Johnny Jenkins works his “hobby,” taking care of about 250 head of cattle and taking care of his wife who has recently had some medical issues.
And he of course closely follows the athletic games of his granddaughter Brook, who as a freshman at Many High School started on the varsity softball team.
The strength of family also is important to the Jenkins. Watching the interaction with the three men, it is easy to see their close relationship. And that caring spills over into the company, which is why several of their workers have been with Jenkins Logging for many years, even decades.
Garland Broadway is one. The 63-year-old has been with the company from the beginning, Johnny said. He is foreman for one crew who also enjoys picking on folks a bit. Shaking hands with him, he draws in close and pretends to be hard of hearing. After a few brief and loud exchanges he chuckles.
“You don’t have to yell, son, I ain’t deaf,” giving the rest of the crew and the Jenkins a good laugh.
Tim Oxley, another long-timer, has been with Jenkins Logging for about 20 years, starting out operating a chainsaw and now running a shear.
The extent of their care for employees might be best shown by how the Jenkins helped Robbie Johnson.
“You don’t want to see anyone hurt,” Buzz Jenkins said. “But when Robbie’s foot and ankle were crushed, all of our safety training paid off.”
A log had smashed Johnson’s foot and ankle after climbing down from his processor. The crew knew how to get the emergency responders to him and get help quickly.
That happened in 2015. After several surgeries and physical therapy, Johnson is back on the job operating a processor and seems none the worse for wear. He was fitted with a prostheses and continues to work.
“Safety is No. 1,” Buzz Jenkins said. “All the procedures we taught that we’d never thought we’d have to use, we did. We did it without panicking or having to ask what to do. We just did it.
“Robbie is a great story of how important it is to know what to do in an emergency and we’re glad he’s still with us.”