With the goal in mind to one day own his own logging company, 25-year-old Zackary Sheets operates a computer-automated processor, picking up a log, stripping it of its bark, cutting it to length and stacking it all while sitting inside the machine.

Sheets was working on a logging site in Canyonville this summer for Gold Hill-based Estremado Logging. He lives in Glendale during the week, then commutes to his house in Albany for the weekends.

Though Sheets said logging companies have been struggling to recruit young people to work in the woods, he’s passionate about what he does.

“That’s the path I’ve chosen. I saw where everybody was running and I ran the other way, which is modern forestry technology,” Sheets said. “It’s a mix of technology but still has a hard work aspect to it.”

Sheets is not only a Douglas County logger but has experience logging around the U.S. and the world.

“I randomly stumbled across an advertisement for loggers who wanted to work in an extreme environment, and it seemed perfect for me,” he said. Three months after he applied, he found himself on a plane to Siberia.

He spent six months there, working in harsh conditions while the Discovery Channel filmed him for the show, “Siberian Cut.”

“It’s important to show kids the positive sides to working hard,” he said of starring in the show.

Last summer, he logged in Alaska for his stepfather Fred Hurt’s gold mining operation. Hurt, known as “Dakota Fred,” has also been featured on the Discovery Channel show “Gold Rush.”

Through the Siberian trip, Sheets met Pekka Ruuskanen, the president of Ponsse for North America. Ponsse, a Finnish company with its North American headquarters in Wisconsin, manufactures and sells harvesters and foresters.

Ruuskanen said Ponsse focuses on state-of-the-art machines that are safer to use than other equipment.

“It’s like an office, you have your own equipment, computer, microwave and fridge,” he said of the cabins within the machinery. “It’s a totally different type of operation.”

After returning to the states for work, Sheets missed logging abroad and contacted Ruuskanen, who invited him to return to Europe to tour and work on various logging sites in Finland and through Western Europe.

Sheets has also worked in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and has logged for Estremado Logging on and off within the past few years.

“It’s good to have a job you can take pride in,” Sheets said of logging. “You can look back at what you did and see how you helped the local community, and the lumber we produce goes all over the country.”

Sheets had considered going to college, but decided not to because he learns best through experience. He had tried working a cubicle job as a technology support representative for Nintendo, but quit after three weeks. Once he chose the logging industry, he never looked back.

“I’ve always known I’m built to be a leader,” Sheets said. “I have a dream to own my own logging business.”

Starting a logging company from scratch without millions of dollars to buy equipment is unrealistic, Sheets said, so Ruuskanen offered to finance Sheet’s equipment and help him start the business in Wisconsin.

Ruuskanen said when he met Sheets, he knew right away Sheets wanted to work hard and learn.

“I can see myself in him because when I was his age I had the same drive to work hard,” Ruuskanen said. “He wants to work and he’s not going to give up, he has really clear goals.”

“I’m close to being in the position to start working toward my dream, but once I get there it’s only the beginning,” Sheets said.

Sheets grew up in Bay Point, California. At age 13, his family moved to Sunny Valley, just south of Glendale. He fell in love with country life, running farm equipment, exploring the woods and competing in motocross competitions.

Sheets said his father had been very hard working, but was terminally ill with hepatitis C, kidney failure and diabetes.

“My dad instilled that hard work ethic into me and he taught me a lot in the ways he could,” Sheets said. His father passed away three years ago.

Sheets met a man who would become his mentor, John Blumenfeld, who was logging just across the hill from the Sheets’ house in Sunny Valley. As a teenager, Sheets said he bugged Blumenfeld for a job until one day he was given a shot.

“He saw a lot of potential in me, which I’m extremely grateful for,” Sheets said. He worked all over the Grants Pass area, learning the tricks of the trade through experience.

“I remember the moment I decided to be like him,” Sheets said of Blumenfeld. The bulldozer they had been operating had run out of fuel, so the two had to lug 5-gallon buckets of fuel uphill to the machine. While Sheets struggled, he saw the man, who was in his late 60s, quickly haul the buckets up the hill like it was nothing.

Sheets said he believes timber is the world’s most natural, renewable resource, and there are millions of products that require logging. The advanced technology used in logging now allows for more efficiency and every piece of the wood is accounted for so there’s no waste, he added.

“One thing I like about the industry is that it creates a ripple effect,” he said of the jobs produced for each operation. Though the logging operation at the Canyonville site only required two people from Estremado Logging and a contractor, more jobs were created for building the roads, assessing the environmental impact, truck driving and more.

He said operating the machinery is like playing a big video game, using buttons to control the equipment, and he questions why more people in his generation aren’t interested in it.

“If you have any work ethic and if you like video games, you would like running a processor,” Sheets said.

But according to Sheets, it’s hard to find other young people who want to do the work.

“It seems nowadays people want to float through life,” Sheets said, adding he knows some people his age who want to get rich quickly by selling marijuana or drugs, but they don’t want to put in hard work.

“They don’t want to get their hands dirty,” said Don Walker, a contractor working with Sheets in Canyonville. Walker has been working in the woods for 54 years and cutting timber for 40 of them. When Walker’s generation retires, which could be within the next decade, the industry will need new loggers.

“If we don’t have new guys coming up to take over these jobs and stay on top of how things are changing, we’re going to be in trouble,” Sheets said.

In addition to logging — which takes up much of his time — Sheets is passionate about bicycling and motocross. Earlier this summer, he rode his mountain bike from Merlin to Gold Beach, about an 80-mile trip. He split the ride into two days and camped overnight along the way. At some point, he’d like to do the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Canada.

Though Sheets said he may only get four hours of sleep a night, he stays positive.

“I get to experience more of my life,” he said. “It’s like I get to live two days in one.”

To view a video of some of Sheet’s logging experiences, visit YouTube and search for “Zackary Sheets, a few minutes of a logger’s life.”

Reporter Emily Hoard can be reached at 541-957-4217 or ehoard@nrtoday.com.

Or follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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Outdoors and Natural Resources Reporter

Emily Hoard is the business, outdoors and natural resources reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4217 or by email at ehoard@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

(10) comments

Creeksend

He is by definition, not a millennial. This is propaganda and bb gurl has it right on. This kid was raised in and fed fertilizer. You are what you consume.
The planet has more sensible people that know the difference between a plantation and and a forest. Shame on you capitalist industrials that beget more of the same.
Thankfully, you ar about to discover the real meaning of the French revolution.

exdep425

***Do your car plates say LIB DEM? If you profess to say you are what you eat, then, I accuse you of rifling through dumpsters for your meals. This kid is so far beyond your level of intelligence it makes me proud. I see you quickly read a paper to look for some big words to toss around: capitalist, industrials. Boy those are chest thumpers. French revolution? Are the French going to attack us?

Mogie

No matter your opinion the kid has a job and that is more then most his age. He seems focused and has a desire to better himself. That is even more then you can expect out of a lot of adults. So give the kid a break. He knows what he wants and is going after it. Doesn't seem to be afraid of a little hard work too.

bbgurrl

"This article brought to you by the Douglas Timber Operators, and Communities For [un]Healthy Forests"

This kind of timber farming is not sustainable for good ecology, stop promulgating the lie. It's obviously not very hard work if you are inside a high tech machine, did you miss all the parts about how automated this is? All of two jobs on a site, and as for some road engineering, those kinds of jobs still take a hefty degree.

A video game is virtual reality. Your actions have no true consequences, unlike total deforestation, which has very very real implications for all living things.

To insinuate that people that work in the marijuana industry are not hardworking in comparison is completely misleading. When I see this guy with a misery whip, and horse logging over log skid roads, I'll start taking this seriously.

exdep425

***bbgurrl. Oui. You took a nice, down to earth article and tried to turn it into a left wing nut, political satire about your insecurities. My first question to you, is do you live in a wood stick built house, or a brick house? Come on, tell us the truth. You have no idea what sustainable forestry even is. You have no idea how long it takes for trees planted today to be logged in the future. Usually about 40 years, give or take. The trees planted in 1970 when I moved to Douglas county, have possibly been cut and another crop replanted. But you don't understand that basic fact. I bet you would not last 1 hour doing his job, or any other on a logging site. Two jobs at a logging site? There are at least 6 and more at bigger jobs, but you are an uninformed whiney, finger pointer. They do not engineer logging roads. They are told where it will go, then pioneer that baby out, as I have done . But you have never ran a crawler or built roads, so no idea again. If I put you on one of my old crawlers and hit a hillside, you would cry like a baby. They are not deforesting anything. That is a word you picked up from a back alley lefty. Replanting is virtually mandatory. No MJ growers do not lug chainsaws up steep hills, run down a log with a 50 pound choker, dodge limbs whipping around like bullwhips.... oh wait, you have no idea what entails either. MJ growers now days sit in a shop and trim little leaves from the buds. Have you done that at least? No I bet you have not. By my count, you are a talker and that is about it. Now as soon as you regain your composure, go ahead and rebuttal me.

just me

exdep i have to agree with you whole heartedly

exdep425

***25 years old, knows exactly what he wants from life and has been going after it for years already. He is very correct about most other people his age that do not, nor will work hard for what they want. It is so much give me, give me. The ones that complain about having to work entire 8 hour days is pathetic. Loggers get up at 2a or 3a, catch crummies and sometimes go for over 2 hours to their job site. If they put in less than 10 hours that is a short day. He is right on for skipping college. I worked a long time on a Criminal Justice degree and not one single job ever asked for a degree and the studies had nothing to do with the actual on job requirements. This kid has fortitude that the others will cower from.

OregonHusker

Good call. Nobody needs to go to college. Doctors, lawyers, computer programmers should come right out of high school and practice right away. You reallly are a righty hillbilly.

exdep425

**********Well, well, if isn't the OregonHusker boy. Where have you been since I publicly called you out on having been 'hired' as a law enforcement officer? You avoided that question like you might have misquoted yourself. You stated you got 'hired' as a cop, but failed to offer any proof. A real cop would have answered quickly. So, here we are again and I ask you again, offer us, the readers some kind of proof to substantiate you are, or were actually some kind of LEO.

exdep425

***Husker. You need to read the terms/rules for posting in the opinion section. It states you should not lie when writing your opinion. What I now believe, is that you were not hired as a paid LEO, as you stated. This alludes to the fact, that you claimed to be an LEO when in fact you were/are not.

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