Still swamped

WH-FT-Still Swamped 1The cameras might be gone, but Bobby Goodson and the Swamp Loggers crew are still famous, still extreme, and with the help of a Bandit Model 2590, busier than ever.
by Christopher Smith
JACKSONVILLE, NC — At first glance, this logging road in rural Southeast North Carolina seems like any other. But a closer look reveals a sign informing people that a work zone is ahead where safety gear is required, and visitors are not allowed. That is unusual because normal logging operations aren’t typically sought after destinations for travelers, but Goodson’s All Terrain Logging crew from Jacksonville, North Carolina isn’t exactly normal. Aside from wielding the special equipment needed to traverse and successfully harvest timber in swampy terrain, the entire operation was the focus of the popular reality TV show Swamp Loggers. The show first aired in 2009. It was cancelled in early 2012 after 36 episodes. The fame it brought to Bobby Goodson and his crew however, continues.
During the time the show was regularly broadcast, Bobby showed the world that nice guys don’t always finish last. As a result, Bobby, his son Justin, Dave, Bo, Joy, Simitrio and the rest of Goodson’s All Terrain Logging business, have a very loyal fan following. In addition, with reruns still in occasional rotation on television, new fans continue to find the show.
Despite the no visitors allowed sign at the beginning of their logging road, Bobby Goodson personifies the term southern hospitality. While visits aren’t encouraged, friends and fans that do happen to catch the swamp loggers in action, are greeted pretty much the same way Bobby greeted people on the show — with a smile and a handshake.
He speaks with the sincere modesty of someone unexpectedly elevated to the spotlight, but grateful for the unique opportunity to meet and help others. For many professional loggers he has become their unofficial spokesman, putting an honest face to a tough industry where multi-generational family operations like his are as common as cornbread and sweet tea in the south. It’s not a role he sought, but as a devoted Christian and family man, it’s a responsibility he aspires to live up to. “I’ve met so many good people doing this show, and there’s a lot of good I can do,” he said.
“For a 44 minute show it takes 200 hours of filming, so there were a lot of things that didn’t make it in, but there were many good things that did. A lot of reality shows are like train wrecks, with everybody arguing or fighting. We are just a group of people trying to get along and do a job, just trying to make a living.”
That’s why visiting Goodson’s All Terrain Logging at the worksite is just like the television show. The focus of the program was the work being done, not conflict. With the exception of a new Bandit chipper in the fleet, the work hasn’t changed. The terrain is still tricky, the equipment can still be finicky and their goal is still to hit 100 loads a week.
The new machine is a 22-inch capacity Bandit Model 2590 whole tree chipper, outfitted with a 540 hp CAT C15. He picked it up in August 2011, not long after filming stopped. It never made it into the show, but he’s already racked up plenty of hours chipping the slash he used to leave behind.
“We have so much waste and slash on our job, and there’s a market coming on now for biofuel so I knew we’d have to go in that direction,” he explained. “I knew Bandit had the best machine out there; I’ve seen guys around me running other machines, and then they’d switch to Bandit so you figure it’s got to be a good product. The 2590 has done a really good job for us, saved us a lot of money.”
Bobby’s first encounter with Bandit was actually chronicled during the second season of Swamp Loggers. The episode titled “Growing Pains” featured a Model 4680 Beast horizontal grinder brought in to wipe out some large piles of chunk wood. He ultimately decided a whole tree chipper would be a better fit for his operation given the local market. He looked to Bandit for a solution.
“The 2590 has really filled a niche for us, with all the limbs and tops and debris it can process,” said Goodson. “We’ve picked our production up about five or six loads a day, and that’s just extra loads we’re getting without having to pull more wood. With the C15, it’ll throw a load in about 20 minutes so we’re not burning much fuel. The only real holdup we have right now is that the mill we’re hauling to only has one dump, so it can be tough to get unloaded in a timely manner.”
Watching the team in action, it soon becomes clear just how good they are at what they do. The 2590 takes material as quick as their Tiger Cat 240 can deliver it. It fills the chip trailer in about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, Bobby moves to another Tiger Cat to load one of the log trucks. Both trucks leave at approximately the same time, just as another empty log truck rolls in. Further out in the swamp another crew is hard at it working with feller bunchers and another loader.
“One of the hardest things I’ve done in 26 years of logging is to find a good group of people that work well together for a common goal,” said Goodson. “Everybody is out here to get as many loads as we can. The more loads we get, the more money everybody makes.”
Bobby said that the cancellation of the show is something of a double edged sword. He misses the TV people and the opportunity to share his ideals and experiences with a large audience, but filming the show was actually very stressful, and not just from a safety standpoint. Having people on the ground with cameras and microphones certainly added a new aspect to keeping everyone out of harm’s way, but the diligence of everyone involved prevented major injuries during the three years of filming. Bobby found that in addition to running the company and guiding his crew, the production team was always turning to him for direction.
“I had 12 people looking at me every morning, wanting to know what we were going to be doing,” said Goodson. “With logging you always have a plan when you leave the house in the morning, but you end up reacting to the situations as they happen throughout the day. The first thing the film crew would ask is what we’d be doing today, and I’d tell them I didn’t know, we’d just have to see what happens.”
“They wanted me onsite every minute,” he added, “which was tough because I had other things to do. For example, where it might take me 30 minutes to run to a parts store by myself, with the film crew it was more like two hours. We’d pull up to the store, the camera guy would get out and then I’d have to go back out on the street so he could film me driving in. Then, since the store didn’t know I was coming, they’d have to go inside and spend time doing paperwork to film. When you have equipment down, you need to get it back up as soon as you can. The show took a lot of my time, and it slowed the guys down a bit as well. It all really put a lot of stress on me.”
Ironically, Bobby admits to not liking crowds or speaking in public, at least that was at first. When asked if being a television star and role model changed Bobby and Goodson’s All-Terrain Logging, Bobby replies, “Not really.”
As a fourth generation logger, Bobby still gets to the job site bright and early. He works alongside his son Justin who is poised to continue in his father’s footsteps as the head of the company. Bobby still jumps from machine to machine, working just as hard as his employees who are also his friends. When machines break down, he still runs for parts and he’s ready with a wrench to get things moving again. He still worries about contracts, and he still has bills to pay. His hands are still dirty and his boots still muddy. It’s all pretty much the same as it was 26 years ago, when he struck out on his own. “I’m going to shovel log as long as I can,” he said, smiling.

Comments

  1. Stan Phillips says

    Thanks, Bobby, for sticking to your Christian principles. But I REALLY miss the show. Thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it. Glad to see you’re doing well without it. Can’t wait for reruns to begin.

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