The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Fine Seed

By Marie P. Perry © 1987

Issue: January, 1987

Douglas (Doug) Rutherford.Douglas (Doug) Rutherford.We know when one's own name is mentioned it is the natural tendency for our ears to perk up. Beyond just hearing we know that something else is involved with our name and that is the reputation it bears. Your name involves you as a whole and what you've proven to be. You're the happiest when one views you with a good name. Prov. 22:1 "A name is to be chosen rather that abundant riches; favor is better than even silver and gold." When the name Douglas (Doug) Rutherford is mentioned in Nebo, North Carolina, the first comment you hear is "he's a good man and a hard worker." The people love him and have only the kindest remarks to make. When one mention's his name at the place of his work, his boss Tom McCombs will say "you can quote me, he's the best there is."

My first acquaintance with Doug was the time I was in search of a good, reliable and honest man to take down a hug oak tree that was lodged against the sun deck of my home. Out of general conversation with my gardener one morning I mentioned my needs.

"Got just the man for you," he replied. "Worked in the woods nearly thirty years so he's had plenty of experience. He's really the best and never had a tree that didn't go in the direction he wanted it to fall....his name is 'Doug Rutherford.'"

I know I acted a little shy of one man's word, but then he was so convincing of the man's capabilities that I told him to have Doug there the next evening.

Before I had room for after thoughts I found Mr. Rutherford in my yard and all set to take down the tree. He was tall in stature and a good size man; with one glance I figured he could eliminate that tree of mine with no problem. I had my 35 mm camera ready to capture the steps of falling a tree.... I say capture because that man moved. You'd hear Doug whistling at one end where he was sawing with the chain saw and then you'd have to focus the next second where he was working the come a long. The only way I could keep up with his movements and not take my eye from the camera was by his whistle. The tree came down quick as a wink, the old chain saw danced a tune and in less than twenty minutes the job was done. I paid the man with no regrets.

I asked Doug if he kept busy at this type of work to which he replied, "No, ma'am, did it for nearly thirty years but had to give it up." "What does he do now?" "He's the head man over at Rolling Hills Dairy in Burke County, North Carolina just a short ways from his own home." I thanked him again for the job well done and asked him for permission to do a story on him. Permission was granted but there was only one problem as to when to catch him, he worked from sun up to sun down.

Doug Rutherford getting ready to plow.Doug Rutherford getting ready to plow.I knew if I wanted any more interviews I'd have to go out on the job to find him. Prov. 6.6 quotes "go to the ant you lazy one, see it's ways and become wise." I believe Doug must have seen the entire colony! There's not a lazy bone in that man's frame and never heard a complaint from him either.

Generally, man lives fast but neither hard nor deep. They don't know where they're going and therefore hurry to get there. Sometimes, they don't even know what they want. Rutherford "lives deep" instead of fast and has an aim in his life "get the job done right."

George Bernard Shaw wrote words that are comparable to many men but the words below (from my viewpoint) describe the personality of Douglas Rutherford.

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little cloud of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

A man cannot be happy if he lives for himself. Doug Rutherford is a happy man because he lives for people!

I drove down to one of the barns where I found Doug working under a big tractor. His boss had given me permission to interview Doug with the instructions "to take all the necessary time I needed." His boss said Doug was well deserving of a story, he's the best.

"Hey, Doug," I called, "do you do all the major repair work too?"

"Yes, Ma'am, I do the main part of it and one thing for sure, with these big rigs you want everything in working order. Be right with you." He crawled out from under the tractor and offered me a piece of equipment to sit on.

"You like running these big tractors?"

"The bigger the better the rig! The bigger the more safer it is I think. The smaller anything is the more apt it is to turn over. Like the small tractor, there's been more people I know hurt on a small tractor than you have the big one. The bigger the more safer it is I think, at least to me it is."

In his deep voice he went on to say, "it handles a lot better, the more heavier it is. A rig stays on the ground better and I like that!"

"What are your chores on this farm?" I inquired.

"Oh, lawdy, I do most all of it, cut hay, do all the haying, cuttin' and bailin', plantin' and replanting. I do all the field and crop work. I run the big chopper that cuts the silage."

Going on Doug said, "took forty loads of silage out yesterday, went home early and worked on my lawn mower and cut grass at my own place."

I remarked of the size of the farm he worked on.

"Oh, lawdy, you ought to see the big farm, it's his grand daddy's place but Tony's got it leased. It's beautiful and down the road on 70 East, just about fifteen minutes from here. I'm going down in another week to get a second cutting of hay."

"I reckon maybe you farmers got in three cuttings," I asked.

"Don't have time ma'am, gets the first cuttin' and then I have to start back planting all this stuff here. Putting that second crop out just keeps me a goin'. I plant every bit of the corn for silage."

With a look of amazement on my face I asked, "What comes during the winter months?"

Doug chuckled and says, "That's my easy time."

"I don't believe you have an easier time Doug."

"Oh, yes", he said, "my hours get down to nine or ten hours a day instead of twelve and fourteen. I do a lot of fencin' work in the winter time, have to catch up on it as I can't get it done in the summer time."

Doug went on to relate his work schedule...

"Every other Sunday is mine to have off. Yes, ma'am, work thirteen and off one. Last year I worked three and a half months and never missed a day...even cut on Sunday. Boss said I had to cut that out as I made the help to ill. Didn't bother me, I just wanted to get the job done."

Doug admitted he needed to take more time off to be with his wife and young'uns. His problem is he can't say no, goes anytime they call day or night.

"You're known as 'man of the timber lane' among your friends."

"Oh, lawdy, I just love cuttin' timber. I just love to see a tree falling trees. I just love getting out in the woods.

With empathy in his voice Doug went on, "I can just cut wood all day long, just from dark to dark. I just love running a power saw. Before I got bad I used to run one all day. The biggest power saw that I run is at my house, 3270 Pioneer." With a voice of conviction he went on to say, "One of the best ones I ever had in my hands."

"Why didn't you stay with the timber?" I asked.

"A lot of days I went and didn't get to work. We was driving so far, something like eighty miles a day. You'd go there and it would be raining and you couldn't get up on the mountains where we'd work. We'd have to come back home. I had to give it up and find something I could depend on or come in every Friday for pay. In the woods you either work or get no pay."

"What's the tallest tree you've ever taken down?" I asked.

"The tallest tree ever done was over a hundred foot tall. Can't remember how many sixteen inch logs we got out of it...drove it almost one hundred feet to the dock. That was over on Piedmont Road over in Morgantown, NC."

"Did you ever have a tree you couldn't handle?"

"Had one we couldn't even make it to the dock with couldn't even pick it up and I reckon it's still out there in Caldwell County. Biggest one in diameter was sixty six inches across the stump. That was my last year in the woods matter of fact. Base of those trees I took home and made seats....some were oak.....still in my front yard.

"What's your advice for a man just going in the woods?"

"The main thing for anybody starting in the woods is never go by yourself, always get somebody that's had experience right then. A lot of young'uns come in there. Their parents bring them in there. Saw one boy get killed, thirteen years old. His granddaddy brought him in and let him have a saw. He went to cut a limb off and the limb sprung back and cut him across the face and he bled to death before we could get him to a doctor. That's been about twenty years ago I guess...long time. I've seen a lot of people get hurt and the most important thing is if anybody ain't been in there, starting out watch out for the dead trees. If you see any dead trees standing around, I call them "widow makers..." that's what I call them because it's killed many a married man. Yes, ma'am I call um' "widow makers" and they will kill you! They sure would and they're the very first thing that you should cut down, dead trees that are standing around cause they're dangerous."

Doug related that the last ten years he ran a skidder in the woods pulling out three or four logs at one time. Because of back problems and an economic situation Douglas Rutherford now works at the Rolling Hills Farm in Morganton, NC.

Doug and his wife Minnie have three daughters Velvet, Celika and Chrastal. They also have two grandchildren, Charlwun, and Ean. His wife and children say Doug can't say no to anyone when they ask for help. When Minnie says "what they gong to do for you," Doug will only reply, "I ain't looking for no one to do nothing for me. As long as I'm able to do for myself and help someone else I'm going to do it...and that's just it."

I did find an activity that's hard to pull Doug away from...

"I just love bid whist, that's my favorite card game. I could play it from day light to dark. Started playing it when I was a small young'un. At family reunion last week we played for about five hours. Bunch of kin folks got together and I really enjoyed it. Love to play cards (he chuckles). Love to fish and hunt but don't get time to it no more, lawdy no."

Doug is a man of the open fields and woods. He could never stand to be confined. At one time he worked in the Clinchfield Mills in Marion, North Carolina but when they started replacing the windows with bricks; Doug knew it was time for him to get out. He loves outside work. And it's the outside work that gives him character. With this farm Doug has plenty of room to breath and smell the good earth God has given man.

If man lived as Rutherford does
Working out of love not greed,
We'd have a finer crop of men
And still a finer seed
to sow among the fields of humanity.