By Claudia Johnson
The Smith Companies’ first true employee, Tim Smith, celebrated his 48th work anniversary in 2018. That’s a lifetime spent in one job, but Tim says he has no plans to retire. After all, he’s been there as the vision in the mind of his first cousin, Doug Smith, grew into the successful family of companies that have employed thousands over half a century.
“When Tim started working with my dad, one of his first jobs was to pour concrete in the floor of one of the buildings Dad had purchased to begin his businesses in Moss,” said April Smith Patterson, who owns the Smith Family Companies along with her mother, Janie, and brother Shane.
A newlywed in 1970, Tim’s first job was at another company in Gallatin, but with wages at $1.99 per hour and gas at $.30 a gallon, the commute from his home community near Moss proved too costly, and after three months, he’d had enough.
“Doug needed someone to work for him,” Tim said, who became one of a handful of people to produce the company’s first products, broom handles.
Tim remembers driving a loader, measuring logs and even driving a truck. Soon it was clear that making broom handles was not profitable, and that proved to be good for Tim’s career. When the sawmills became the most lucrative aspect of the Smith Family business, which started under the umbrella of Green Forest Products, Tim was a natural fit to become a sawyer.
“Back in the beginning we did everything with a circle saw, and we started out with one diesel motor,” Tim said. “Things were real tight for the first few years.”
Tim said they collected scraps of banding discarded from a nearby factory, Graham Hammer, and pieced them together to package the sawmills’ products.
“Later Doug bought that factory out,” Tim says with a smile.
During the early 1970s the mills were upgraded when Doug began buying used equipment and revamping it for his operation, and Tim’s value to the company increased. Shane calculated about how much lumber Tim has sawn for what is now Moss Sawmills.
“Since 1970, he’s has sawn roughly 200 million board feet, which totals 235,000 trailer loads of lumber,” Shane said.
Tim’s job as a sawyer is to determine how logs should be cut into lumber. He watches the timbers as they go through the saw and evaluates them for the greatest yield of the highest grade of lumber, thereby ensuring the best financial return on every board.
“Logs are really expensive when you buy them,” Tim said. “I can see how to get the most out of them. All the time I am thinking, ‘Do I need to turn it now or can I get another board?’”
Tim has sustained a long marriage and raised a family while at Moss Sawmills. In 48 years, he’s weathered booms and downturns in the lumber market, broken the same arm twice and mashed off part of his left-hand ring finger. And, he’s remained consistently employed in a job he loves and in which he takes pride.
“I’m a great sawyer,” he says matter-of-factly. “It comes natural. I’m good at what I do. I stay steady all day long.”