My husband’s family business is a small town lumberyard and home building business. The business has been rooted in building supplies since the building was built.
The abstract is from 1896, my father-in-law tells me, and the earliest picture we’ve seen of the building as Thompson Yards was in 1904. Then it was Sayler Lumber until my in-laws purchased it in early 1977.
Every town has buildings that help give identity to the community. The lumberyard is one of those in our rural town of Wishek, N.D., that is identified along the main highway through town and remains a family-owned business using its original building.
A modern lumberyard alley would allow us to unload supplies with a forklift and by the pallet load. But instead, our employees manually unload and neatly stack supplies in the main alley. Newer buildings in the back allow for the forklift to move around supplies, but the heart of the business and building are in the main, original alley. Daily during our business hours, the alley of the lumberyard is where two outside employees load supplies and deliver to job sites. Local contractors and carpenters often come in, grab what they need for a project and go inside to the office to charge it to the job.
To me, the hustle and busyness on a weekday in the lumberyard demonstrate community vitality, with a variety of contractors and different people getting what they need and also pausing to visit with one another.
Will the community strength and vitality last for another generation? We don’t know. There are not any guarantees, but we want to be a part of building up the next generation in our business, other businesses and the community.
For the past several years, my husband and I have hosted our local 4-H club for a woodworking project. We started when our daughters were in 4-H Cloverbuds, ages 5-7, and then moved up with them to their 4-H club of ages 8-18. The projects started simpler and as the kids have learned more skills and gained confidence, we have added steps and more building and woodworking teaching and concepts to it.
My husband Nathan is the builder and coordinates the supplies needed and teaching. Pinke Lumber employees also help the week before the 4-H meeting and project to prepare the alley and pre-cut wood. I am the meeting planner, making sure there are plenty of snacks and taking pictures. Nathan and I search for projects different ages will be interested in and can complete. We also want a project each member can take home to finish on their own with stain or paint. Kids then have a static woodworking project to enter into the 4-H Achievement Days at the local county fair in the summer.
Last month, 28 4-H members ages 8-16, with the younger kids each bringing an adult helper along, built a three shelf stand. Our daughters each gave a demonstration ahead of the meeting. Anika, 9, demonstrated staining wood. Elizabeth, 11, demonstrated painting. Both showed preparation steps and finishing details. I walked up the stairs on the side of the lumberyard alley to look down on the demonstration.
I flashed back to think of the history of the building, the people who have filled the lumberyard alley from generations before, the work, the hardship, the progress and livelihoods built over generations with the teaching of a next generation.
Will some of the 28 kids be the next generation in our community, owning or working in the lumberyard, tradespeople or customers buying supplies for projects? We hope so.
For now, I hope they are painting or staining their three-shelf stand and working on additional summer county fair projects.