Lumber and logging in SW Minnesota

By Jill Fennema –

Not far from Edgerton, a little off the beaten path, is a rare business for this “neck of the woods.” In reality, you won’t find a lot of forested areas here in the great plains of Minnesota. Despite this geographical fact, about seven miles southwest of Edgerton, you will find a real lumberjack and a working sawmill.

His name is RG Hensley. He and his wife Judy have shared an appreciation for wood for nearly 50 years. They also run the Cozy Rest Motel in Luverne, but sawing logs is RG’s real passion.

RG grew up mostly in the south. His mother, Violet Hensley, crafted fiddles. In 1964, RG began working in the woods of Arkansas during summers, as most young men in the area did. He started working at a sawmill stacking lumber when he was 22 years old in 1967, and gradually moved up running various equipment so other men could have breaks.

Two years later, his employer asked him to move to Hill City, South Dakota, to start another sawmill in the Black Hills. He went back to Arkansas briefly over the first winter, but returned to South Dakota again the following spring. While eating at a small restaurant, he met a waitress named Judy Buchholz and they married and settled outside of Hill City. They bought an old mining shack that had been converted to a tiny house.

In 1974, he left the sawmill and returned to logging work in the Black Hills National Forest. In January 1975, with 30 inches of snow on the ground, RG was injured in a logging accident. A big tree branch fell on his head, the impact breaking his hard hat and fracturing his skull. His co-workers found him lying in the woods and had to carry him out.

Suffering from severe headaches, he was off work for four months. But the family needed money, so he borrowed money to buy a truck to haul post – logs. He did this work for a couple of years before he returned to sawmill work and hauled post on the side. After about six months of doing both, he returned to the sawmill that he helped build.

For the complete article, please see the October 4th edition of the Edgerton Enterprise. If you do not currently receive the Enterprise, CLICK HERE for information on how to subscribe!

RG and Diana Hensley with examples of the red cedar trimmings.

All of the wood that RG cuts is air-dried. He stores some of it in a shed on the family’s acreage north of Hardwick. But he has quite a lot of wood, so there are also a few stacks that are drying outside. Each layer of boards is separated by dunnage – thin spacing boards that are often called sticks – in-between the layers.

Over the past few years, RG has purchased or built things as he’s been able. A 22-foot tilting car trailer was first purchased to haul a forklift, which was used to move bunks of lumber. Later he designed a log bunk to fit on this trailer, when he started hauling logs from the Black Hills himself.  The log bunk is made of four inch steel tube. The bunk fits into the stake pockets on the tilt trailer. He modified a set of forks to put on the “M” Farmall.

RG Hensley with the band saw blade from his portable sawmill.

The blade of the saw cutting a one-inch piece off the top of the log. RG trims all the sides off the log to make it square. He will then cut it into six 1”x6” cedar boards. He keeps the cedar trimmings because they are useful for different projects.

Deven demonstrates a cant hook, which is a hinged metal hook at the end of a long handle, used for gripping and rolling logs.