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When He Talks People Listen

Article by Jessica Johnson, Senior Editor, Timber Processing January/February 2024

Some of the smartest men and women in the industry have graced the pages of this magazine—and have won the award of Timber Processing Person of the Year. They’ve all been incredibly worthy of this recognition for innovation, commitment and love of the industry they serve. Perhaps none have been quite as innovative as the introverted sawmiller from Georgia named Levi Anderson Pollard, V, whose name is on two of the patents that changed the way the sawmilling world manufactures and dries lumber (and on so many other patents as well).

Andy Pollard is just a little boy who grew up around a sawmill, but also loved to take things apart and figure out how to make a broken thing work again. He would eventually get a mechanical engineering degree from Clemson University and return to his family sawmill; and then notice things that just didn’t work, or otherwise didn’t make sense to him. That’s when he’d start thinking, and that thinking would turn into “twiddling,” as Pollard referred to it, when I met him on a rainy day in early January.

There have been many, many times during this job that I have been very intimidated. The first time I heard the debarker on a scorcher of a summer day at M.C. Dixon Lumber Co. in Eufaula, Ala.—my very first visit to a sawmill, ever. Or the August day I was eight months pregnant with the twins, and I smiled at Tommy Battle gesturing for him to go ahead, as I somehow climbed the Battle Lumber catwalk in Wadley, Ga. to get the good shots of his mill, big belly and all. Then there was waiting in the brightly polished lobby of the Georgia-Pacific Tower, a building I’d driven by no less than 100 times growing up, waiting to meet GP lumber chief Fritz Mason to complete his Person of the Year interview.

But meeting with Andy Pollard had me on pins and needles. Andy Pollard! The guy who changed the industry—or at least how to curve-saw cants and dry more lumber more efficiently. His list of patents alone had me running through an entire ream of printer paper. But after my eyes glazed over discussing calculus (a subject I didn’t even attempt in any of my years of schooling) he brought us back down to Earth, telling me that plainly working on things is what brings him joy. That and spending time with his wife of nearly 50 years and their five grandchildren. Nothing but a grown boy with an interest in making things work better. He put me at ease, almost easy enough to forget big parts of modern sawmilling happen because of his tenacity.

Bryant Beadles, a longtime independent sawmiller turned Canfor sawmiller, said it perfectly: “Behind Any Pollard’s soft-spoken nature is a brilliant mind running one hundred miles per hour. I spent years around him like an aggravating child trying to get to some words of wisdom of what he was thinking. Andy has been instrumental in my learning of the lumber business. In his soft-spoken way, he taught me to look for new solutions and to follow ideas. As soft-spoken as he is, we all consider him like the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Andy speaks people listen.”

I am not sure I believe all of that—my mama raised me to be a good Catholic girl though, so I won’t question a saint. And I am all for the healing powers of trees, as I have seen with my own two eyes what a sawmill can do to reinvigorate in a community. It might not have “healed” anyone, but it sure did change things. Of all the things I’ve seen on sawmilling adventures, the ruins of a church and cemetery from the Fifth Century AD probably tops the list.

Then again, I would be remiss to mention that Portmarnock is also home to the Portmarnock Golf Club where, in 1960, Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead brought home the Canada Cup. And it is where another generation of American greats, including Phil Mickelson and David Duval won a memorable Walker Cup in 1991. Plus a casual 19 stagings of the European Tour’s Irish Open Championship.

Golf and Catholic Saints: Is there anything more Irish than that? Maybe this Irish coffee I enjoyed from the café inside the Golf Club, overlooking the Irish Sea while it drizzled.

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