Milling Around

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Published on: Jan. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

he carried out timber management plans on 40,000 acres of woods. Not only did he take care of timber sales and mark trees for sale, he also walked the 250 miles of unfenced boundary lines that needed to be remarked with paint every six years. "I was in the woods practically all the time," Noah says of the 34 years he worked in the Ozarks.

During this time, Noah acquired a lot of his knowledge of old forestry equipment. "I learned about mills when I was working. I watched people put mills together. I've seen them work all my life," Noah says. As sawmills were upgraded or replaced, Noah rescued the discarded parts from junk piles.

A portable railroad tie mill was one of several mills he restored. Made in the 1800s, it could be taken apart and transported by wagon to the next site. Railing and a pulley system move the logs to the mill's sawblade in a straight line.

When building these mills, the old-time loggers didn't always have much of a plan, Noah says. "They just put them together until they would work." The mills didn't have to be exact-a 1/2-inch tolerance was acceptable. "Today if a saw cuts crazy lumber, you lose money," he says.

For power to run the mill, Noah uses a 1906 portable Case steam engine. To get it running, he had to replace all of its 32 flues. The engine is considered portable because it can be pulled to a different site. It does not move on its own. The engine Noah restored, which bears the Case eagle symbol and the engine number 1724, was used in Shannon County to run sawmills and to thresh wheat.

Another mill Noah restored has close ties to his own family history. This mill was designed specifically to cut wood shingles to the correct proportions. One day after Noah brought it home, his father recognized it as the one Noah's uncle ran in the early 1900s. Noah's father was too young to run the mill, but he still was able to help with the aid of his little red wagon. His job was to deliver shingle scraps to families living in company houses to use as firewood.

To help carry his equipment, Noah restored a 1925 Model TT truck, one of the early gasoline powered vehicles used in the forest industry. Noah carefully rebuilt this truck, as well as two Model T

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