BY JIM MISUNAS
LARNED — Wilson Elliott of Roby, Mo., knows saw mills and lumber inside out. One of his most enjoyable trips every year is attending the Tired Iron Show west of Larned.
Elliott searches for bargains and makes some business deals along the way. He was accompanied by Darris Wolfe, also of Roby, Mo.
Elliott’s father was familiar with western Kansas because he used to help with the harvest near Pawnee Rock from 1915 to 1928. His father worked as a laborer operating a wheat header and steam engine during harvest season.
Elliott, who runs Elliott Forestry with his wife Carmen, started hauling firewood in 1976. Years ago, he’d haul firewood to central Kansas and haul hay back to Missouri. He cuts back trees in a process called timber stand improvement.
Elliott constructs log cabin homes and donated the Frick saw mill used at the Santa Fe Trail Center for this year’s log cabin build. Working on the log cabin cutting wood Friday were Dale Otte of Larned and Doug Springer of rural Pawnee County. The log cabin measured 10 feet by 12 feet for a saw mill that cut 10.6-foot railroad ties.
“They got pretty much everything done except laying the roof and some window work,” he said.
Elliott said the saw mill dates back to the 1920s and was used to cut railroad ties, which was his father’s regular job.
“You can pretty much say I grew up seeing saw mills,” he said. “There is a lot of history with these saw mills. They were originally used to cut railroad ties. I get to see a lot of old friends every year.”
He helped supply the northern white pine wood, which came from a Missouri conservation farm near Licking, Mo. The northern white pine was replanted in Missouri to produce seedlings.
“White pine is a good, soft wood that’s easy to work with,” he said. “Some builders prefer yellow pines. Others like oak, which is a heavier and harder wood that takes the weather better.”
The northern white pine trees that supplied the lumber has an interesting history. Elliott vividly remembers the May 8, 2009 windstorm that snapped dozens of the trees in southern Missouri.
The May 8, 2009 “Super Derecho” produced wind gusts from 70 to 90 mph that delivered significant damage over a broad swath from western Kansas to eastern Kentucky.
Elliott has also built several log cabin homes in central Kansas, most notably Doug Panning’s home outside Ellinwood.
“Every log cabin home can be built differently, which makes it fun,” he said. “It’s fun to cut the tree yourself and put that wood into a building. I cut some big beams for Doug Panning’s home.”
His next project is preserving the biggest log barn in southern Missouri.