Thursday, February 23, 2012

A New Generation at the Sawmill

"I guess it’s a worthwhile job you know. It’s kind of nice to see what you can make out of a tree. Take a tree and make something nice out of it. Work with it. Its just amazing what you can do with it."
-Wesley Rissler, R&R Forest Products

Wesley Rissler, left, and Ezra Rissler sort lumber as it is cut off the log at their family sawmill near California, Mo. The two brothers recently began working full time alongside their father and grandfather.

Logs from throughout Missouri pile up outside of R&R Forest Products. The Risslers produce everything from fences for the neighbors to logs for construction in China.  

“When I was going to school, I came down here to help when I didn’t have nothing else to do,” said Ezra. Around the time Ezra began working in the mill, business crashed as the economy and housing market began failing.

Wesley cuts the scrap wood down into foot-long sections that are bought by the local Amish community for firewood. Everything that goes into the mill is eventually used, even the sawdust and scraps.

Wesley and Ezra follow their father, Earl, to their truck for a lunch break. All three expect Wesley and Ezra to eventually take over the business. “I tell them, ‘Dad worked for it for me. I’m going to work for it for them. That’s why its here,’” said Earl.

“I’d like to take over sawing here,” said Wesley “Grandpa’s thinking about retiring here and being our maintenance man.” Wesley spends most of his time stacking lumber alongside his brother, but occasionally takes over control of the saw when his grandfather, Raymond, goes on breaks.

Work gloves rest on a pile of recently cut stakes. The mill is in a constant state of change as equipment, logs, and lumber come and go.

Ezra stacks lumber outside the mill. The Risslers recently bought a new mill to try and speed up production, but as business remains slow Earl sums up the goal of the mill in one word: survival.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Short-eared Owl

I used a 500mm lens for the first time this past weekend on a trip down to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. The wetlands are filled with a wide range of birds right now so I took a shot at what I could get. The photos aren't as crisp as I would like but it was a fun afternoon and hopefully I'll be taking another crack at it soon.

...and one great blue heron for good measure

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Starting Fires

Life is always better when you get to burn. Today, I went out with the Tiger Fire Crew, a group of fire fighters from the University of Missouri. With the warm weather we've been having this week, we were able to burn two fields that are being managed at the Baskett Research Area near Ashland, Mo. I was out there primarily to work on the fire, but was able to get a few photos in as well. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Mayor of Higbee

This week, my classmates and I did a series of portraits and interviews with people around Columbia. I met with Robert J. Ashworth, the mayor of Higbee, a small town about an hour north of Columbia. Enjoy this piece of our conversation about the history of the former coal town.