In an empty log yard, one man maneuvers a loader. Only the engine rumble and headlights pierce the night. He slides the machine's forks under a pile of logs on a semi truck and lifts them to a bare patch of ground where they bump together in a row.
It's after 10 p.m. and he has been working since sunrise. Most of Mark Donahue's days are like this.
From a young age, Mark knew he wanted to be a logger. He picked up a chainsaw when he was 11, and he started logging for his dad's company when he was 14. Just before his 16th birthday, he quit high school, and he has been working ever since. Now 32, he works six days a week supplying timber to log buyers.
“My mom and dad preached that if a man don’t work he’s not worth nothing,” Mark says.
So he leaves home early and comes home late, cutting and hauling logs from across the county and beyond. Mark walks through the woods, assessing the thickness and quality of ash, maple, white oak and other trees. He pauses at a thick ash, maybe 30 inches in diameter, whose branches reach into the fiery foliage above. Gazing up the straight trunk, he estimates it extends 12 feet before branching off.
"At 80 cents a foot, I can get $405.60 out of that single tree," he says.
He angles his cuts so the tree drops between smaller saplings he wants to leave standing. After his last slice, a few pops, creaks and a heaping crash reverberate through the forest. The tree is down, and he continues, chopping off the top, then moves on to the next one, hour after hour. Mark works constantly because he wants to give his wife and five children a good life.
He says supporting his family is what drives him to keep going, but because he's always on the job, he rarely spends time at home. His work ethic pays off, though. He says he doesn't struggle to find jobs. His phone rings throughout the day with people asking him for work or to clear their land. Customers come to him because they know they can trust him to do the job efficiently and pay them fairly.
Some days he pulls half a dozen loads out of the woods. He gives landowners up to 40 percent of the logs' value. And at the end of the day, after he has hauled tons of wood, Mark will help a friend move hay, or stop by his grandmother's house to load her fireplace.
“Mark is as good a fellow as you’ll ever find," says Josh Utterback, one of Mark's contractors. "He’d give you the shirt off his back at three o' clock in the morning if you needed it.”