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Fifty Years and Still Trucking

In Business, Economy, Education, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, State News, Uncategorized on September 19, 2012 at 7:07 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Over the last few years many small businesses fell apart as a result of the recession. But one family business in Jamestown is celebrating a half-century of service with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

In the summer of 1962 my father, Gary Deer, Sr., was working the machine shops at the great NCR, laying concrete on his off hours and helping my mother, Lois, raise my brother Gary, Jr., and sister Cathy (I wasn’t quite on anyone’s radar just yet). Money was always tight, but a toolbox full of skills always seemed to provide him with ways to pay the bills, however unconventional his blend of work.

It was around that time, armed only a truck and a scoop shovel, he was hired to haul a load of sawdust from Indiana to a greenhouse in Fairborn. Sawdust was used for landscaping and mixed with potting soil and mulch for bagging trees and other plants. Never one to turn down work, he agreed and that first load of wood shavings and dust led to a job that would support his family for many years to come.

Gary Deer and Son was the name he first gave his business, which included the cement work at the time. Fifty years later, there’s an “s” on the end, but it’s still very much in business and keeping my father and brother busy.

I grew up in the seat of an International Harvester grain truck. It was a beast of a vehicle, nicknamed the “binder” because of its lack power steering, a hand-actuated dump bed with the lever positioned outside and behind the cab and shaky, wooden sideboards. The truck held somewhere around 7,500 pounds of sawdust and always seemed to be in demand by dairies, horse stables and livestock farms.

One of dad’s earliest customers was Young’s Dairy in Yellow Springs. Even today, the popular tourist spot uses the clean, dry sawdust Dad supplies in the barns and around the livestock areas.

Over the last half-century, it’s been a common sight along US 35 to see one of Dad’s signature red (and for a time blue) trucks tarped down in red, white and blue rumbling down the highway. But you can’t imagine what it was like growing up and trying to explain your family’s business to teachers and other kids (particularly those from the city).

While taking a business class at Greeneview High School during my freshman year, we were asked to write a report about a chosen occupation we might pursue. Having no clue yet as to what I wanted to be when I grew up, I decided to write about Dad’s business – assuming I’d eventually be part of the business.

In the essay, I explained that sawdust was a major commodity within the agricultural, livestock and lumber industries. It’s a by-product of the wood finishing process in pallet shops and lumber yards, essentially vacuumed from beneath the saw tables and piped into a pile or building for storage. The mill can then sell off the sawdust at a premium, making money from what was basically waste material.

I went on to explain how grain trucks, semi trailers and wagons are used to then transport the material to dairies and stables to be resold as bedding. People make money by reselling the material, something my father and brother have now been doing for decades. The irony here was that the teacher gave me a “D,” not for my writing ability, but instead citing that sawdust hauling was, “not a viable career.”

Having effectively insulted my family business and our livelihood, the teacher was strongly encouraged by a higher power to change my grade and I wonder what he’d say today? That was more than a quarter-century ago and, though many businesses have dried up and blown away, Dad’s is still going, there’s even a website, garydeerandsons.com.

But I can’t help thinking sometimes about how things worked out, how random that first call was back in 1962 and where it led for my parents. It taught me that sometimes the simplest of circumstances hold opportunities you can’t even yet imagine. Mom and Dad created and managed the business on their own, with no help from anyone, and we are all forever grateful.

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