A John Deere Publication
Ron and Rusty Delk of R&R Swamp Logging stand at a landing site with a logging truck behind them.

Brothers Ron and Rusty Delk of R&R Swamp Logging study a landing site in southern Georgia.

Fall 2022

Won’t Back Down


R&R Swamp Logging gets it done

The R’s in R&R Swamp Logging stand for brothers Ron and Rusty Delk, but could easily stand for rock and roll, as in, “let’s rock and roll.” These guys hit the ground running. At a logging site in southern Georgia near the company’s hometown of Homerville, the crew begins work on what looks like the set of a dystopian futuristic movie. Camouflaged trucks from the World War II era haul loads of logs across a barren, dusty landscape.

Durable and cost-effective, the trucks help the company run more efficiently. They haul the trailers of logs across rough logging roads to where more modern semitrucks pick them up and haul them to the mills. The company produces approximately 20 loads a day.

The ground that crews are currently working is unforgiving. Despite the dry surroundings, the tract is wet and treacherous. The swampland is virtually impassable, covered in gnarly roots, stumps, and fallen trees. Machine undercarriages are barely visible above the muck and mire.

The company doesn’t cut drier “hill wood,” according to Ron: “We’re primarily swamp and shovel loggers. The lands we log are low and stay wet 99 percent of the time.” “We’re the only swamp logger in Clinch County,” adds Rusty.

John Deere 853M and 903M Tracked Feller Bunchers have demonstrated their mettle in the tough ground. While most logging operations in the region use wheeled feller bunchers, R&R Swamp Logging finds that tracked machines are essential to what the company does. “All we’ve ever run are tracked cutters,” says Rusty. “Where we log, that’s all we can really use.”

Ron surveys the current logging site: “The swamp behind me is one of the worst we’ve ever been in. As bad as it gets.”

Asked if there is any environment in which they won’t cut wood, Ron replies: “We never back down.”

“If there’s a spot that can’t be cut, that’s the spot we want to cut,” adds Rusty. “I’ve not seen a spot we couldn’t cut, and I’ve seen some bad ones.”


Lay of the land

R&R Swamp Logging is a third-generation business. “I remember our father Ronnie and grandfather Boss had their own sawmill close to our house,” recalls Rusty. “They’d cut fenceposts and sell them up the road. That’s how they got their start.” Ron joined the company after graduating high school in 1998. His brother followed in 2004. “It’s all we’ve ever done,” says Rusty.

When they were young, the pair would go to the woods with their dad every chance they could. “I can remember my father telling me, ‘If you don’t love what you do, you’ll never be good at it,’” says Ron. “I love it as much today as I did then.”

The two learned everything they know about logging from their father. “He had a big impact on me,” says Ron. “I wouldn’t be the logger I am today if it weren’t for him. He taught us never to be afraid of hard work.”

An important lesson their father taught them was how to look at a piece of land to determine if it was viable. “In my younger days, I wouldn’t believe we were going to cut wood on some sorry-looking site, but then we’d cut some of the best wood I’ve ever seen,” Ron remembers. “I’d just scratch my head on how he did it. It took me a long time to learn that.”


Making every move count

Every logging site is different and presents its own unique challenges. The current site is no exception. Teamwork is critical to getting things done. “One man can’t do it all,” says Rusty. “Everybody has to be on the same page.”

The brothers are constantly on the radio with each other, Ron from the cab of the 853M Tracked Feller Buncher while Rusty runs the shovel machine. “We’ve done this all our lives, so we have a feel for what to do,” explains Rusty. “But that takes years of experience. Don’t expect to come out here for six or eight months and have it all figured out because the next spot will eat your lunch.”

Having reliable, efficient equipment is key. “You’ve got to have production and make every move count,” says Rusty. In addition to the 853M and 903M Tracked Feller Bunchers, the company also runs John Deere 748L‑II, 848L‑II, and 948L‑II Skidders and two 437E Knuckleboom Loaders. “The skidders are just good, dependable tractors,” says Rusty. “We’ve run them 5- or 6,000 hours in a swamp without even replacing a hydraulic line. That’s pretty good. Plus, they’re comfortable and well-balanced. They’re perfect for what we do.”

The company bought its first John Deere skidder from its local dealer, Flint Equipment Company, in 2004. “If we need something, we’ll call them and they make it happen,” says Rusty. “They’re great about getting parts and doing what it takes to keep us up and running because time is money.”

Unsung heroes

R&R Swamp Logging cuts wood for Pierce Timber Company, which buys the wood, works with 15 contractors, and runs 15 of its own crews.

The company’s relationship with Pierce Timber began in 2014. Ron and Rusty had lost their father in 2006 and grandfather in 2007. “They were the backbone of the company,” says Rusty. For the next several years, the company seemed rudderless, according to the brothers.

“In 2014, I felt we needed a fresh start and new direction,” says Ron. “It was a hard decision because we were leaving everything my father worked for, but it was the best decision I ever made.”

The past year was one of the wettest on record. “It’s taken a lot of effort to get a tree from the stump to the mill in these conditions,” says Chad Nimmer, who manages Pierce Timber’s West Area. “Our swamp and shovel crews — including R&R Swamp Logging — are unsung heroes.”

Chad has known Ron and Rusty since they were young. “I’ve watched these guys grow into tremendous young men,” he says. “I love them like brothers and couldn’t be prouder of them.”

When Ron and Rusty started their own business, Nimmer never doubted they’d be successful. “It’s been cool to watch them come from a generational logging family, take their talents, and turn their dream into reality.”

Nimmer fondly recalls spending time with Ron, Ronnie, and “Mr. Boss,” as he calls Ron’s grandfather. “We’ll joke about how the more gray hairs we get, the more we’ve seen what they’ve seen,” he says. “It’s not for everybody. Logging is tough, but the rewards are great. When loggers feel they’ve accomplished a lot, don’t have breakdowns, and leave safe, those are good days. We like blue skies and dusty roads.” Much like the day we visited the Delks.

R&R Swamp Logging is serviced by Flint Equipment Company, Brunswick, Georgia.

Clockwise from top left. Jason Delk checks the landing site before entering the cab of a John Deere 437E Knuckleboom Loader. John Deere 437E Knuckleboom Loader grapple grasps a full-tree log to be cut-to-length then loaded onto a logging truck. John Deere 848L-II Grapple Skidder plows through the Georgia swamp muck. R&R Swamp Logging deals with muck and mire every day in the swamplands of Georgia. Brian Delk poses in front of a 903M Tracked Feller Buncher with an FR22B Felling Head attachment.

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