April 25, 2018
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On the job by 4 a.m.

Brian Swartz | BDN
Brian Swartz | BDN
Brian Mack of Howland sits at the controls of a John Deere 753 feller-buncher equipped with a 22-inch Gilbert cutting head. He is cutting trees for Treeline Inc. at an Orville harvest site.
By Brian Swartz, Special Sections Editor

The racket rising somewhere beyond the trees reveals where Brian Mack works on this glorious September morning.

Seated in the cab of a John Deere 753 feller-buncher equipped with a 22-inch Gilbert cutting head, Mack is harvesting and stacking trees on a 100-acre Treeline Inc. harvest site about a mile off the Boyd Lake Road in Orneville. Parked amidst green-leaved trees and silhouetted by the fall sun, the green JD 753 almost vanishes from sight as Mack gradually works his way along a trail that he cut the previous afternoon.

Mack lives in Howland, where he gets up “around 2:30-3 o’clock” every morning before heading to work. “We’re here at 4 o’clock” — an hour many Mainers would consider to be prime sleeping time — to “check the oil” on the feller-buncher “and get ’er fired up,” he says.

“I get the pickup off the side of the road and go to work,” he says.

During his “probably 35 years” spent working in Maine’s woods, Mack has “served” two tours with Treeline Inc. One of the Chester company’s original employees, he left “for some years” before returning four years ago.

When operating the feller-buncher, he “cuts and stacks trees” that will be skidded to the nearby yard and then be delimbed. Mack uses the machine’s cutting head to “open” a trail along which he maneuvers the feller-buncher; he extends the boom to cut trees “for a certain distance” along both sides of a trail.

Mack removes marketable trees and leaves younger trees that will grow better beneath the partially opened forest canopy. “This lot was selectively harvested about 25 years ago,” says Treeline Inc. President Brian Souers. “It has regenerated well and is now overstocked.

“We are removing much of the older-age class and thinning the younger-age class,” he explains the harvest’s goal. “We identify what we call the ‘future crop’ trees. These are the best, healthiest trees that have the best chance to grow well.

“We make sure they have adequate room to grow for the next 10 to 15 years,” Souers says.

Much of the year, Mack starts his work day literally in the dark. The feller-buncher’s headlights illuminate the forest, and “I usually can tell a quality tree in the dark,” he says.

To make sure he knows where to cut, “I usually set myself up the day before” by opening a trail along which he can work the next morning. He spaces the trails 50-70 feet apart.

The work day ends at 4 p.m., Monday through Friday; Mack occasionally works on Saturdays, but not often.

Away from work, “what I like to do is fish, hunt,” but he does not have as much time as he would like to pursue those interests. He sometimes finds himself “doing around the house, such as building a new deck this summer.”

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