buffalo lumber big haul

Buffalo Lumber Inception: The Big Mill Backhaul

In 2002, I was working in real estate and, every now and then, doing a little lumber hauling for my grandfather. I also backhauled some lumber to him. Lumber wasn’t my thing at that point and the first backhaul was quite an experience, but it laid the foundation for Buffalo Lumber.

I had my flatbed truck and I’m hauling discount molding for my grandfather. My father lived very close to where I dropped the wood and he suggested a backhaul so I wouldn’t drive home empty.

We drove my little 1-ton Chevy truck into a huge lumber yard and got in line with the semi-trucks. We waited two hours to get to the office to talk with someone about “mill-outs” wood that is discounted because of damage or rejected for some other reason.

We felt we were being sneered at as we held up the line of gigantic trucks and the yard foreman scoffed as he stormed back into the office to call for the mill manager. My dad and I stood huddled together not quite sure what to expect.

The mill manager, Mike, made his appearance. “So, you wanna waste my time kicking around my yard looking through reject lumber?” I looked at my dad. He shrugged, so I said “yes”, hesitantly.

Grandfather, Ellsworth “Buck” Buffaloe

Mike, the manager, was holding a spray paint can with an orange lid and as he began to talk and cuss us out, he was painting X’s on units of wood that have covers on them.

Then he said, “I don’t even have time to let you two look at this wood. If you don’t like my deal, get lost. It’s 600 cash. You get the whole load, you don’t get to look at it first, but if you don’t make four times the amount of money you spend on it, I’m not doing my job. Take it or leave it. Now get outta here.” It didn’t actually come out of his mouth this nice. I had to clean it up for print!

As he was walking away, I asked if my dad and I could have 5 minutes to talk. He mumbled something that sounded like a yes, so we called my grandfather and asked him if he wanted to buy the load for 600 bucks. For some reason, the fact that the guy was such a SOB made us feel like it was probably a good deal. My grandfather said, “yeah do it, I got the 600”.

We told Mike we’d take it and they started loading my little 1-ton truck … and loading, and loading, and loading. The truck springs started to creak and it dropped down about a foot. I looked at my dad and he said, “load it till you’re scared and add another unit”. Then laughed maniacally.

chris buffalo dad
Dad, Dave Buffaloe

I don’t know what the statute of limitations on being overloaded is! I never got us weighed at a scale but we estimated we were, oh … 22,000 pounds or so overloaded. This was late 2002 and a 1-ton is 2000 pounds, max, and we had to be at 24,000 pounds. Looked like half a truckload to me.

We took my 1-ton truck very slowly to my dad’s house. Luckily, he lived less than 2 miles away from the mill. He had racks in his backyard, because we’re all lumber knuckleheads, and unloaded at least half of it so we could legally go over the pass to my grandfather’s. My grandfather was ecstatic with how much he got for his $600.

This was a repeat business deal, out the back door as many mill deals were in those days, and probably still are.

I took my mom on one of these loading adventures. True to form, the mill began to overload us to the max and I looked at my mom and said “you know if you were going to start a business, you could get enough wood from this mill to do it”.

I didn’t give it a second thought at the time because I had big goals in the real estate market. But those words gave Mom an idea, and that’s a whole ‘nother story!

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