Tom Kellogg
Trade Craft

Tom Kellogg, otherwise known as TJ, gives a strong impression: he's observant, soft-spoken, careful in what he says, and always positive, often funny, when dealing with problems. You can sense that he's in control of his time and resources. In contrast, he has some kind of atonia that tenses his fingers and toes, which are always cramped.

Another person could be said to "suffer" from this condition, but that's not how TJ deals with it. His body seems to be just another finicky machine to be coaxed along. Whether he's wrestling a trailer, maneuvering a chain saw, or digging in a muddy ditch he works fast, happily, and usually alone. More than once he's tumbled down my front steps; he just laughs, dusts himself off, and succeeds the next time. I find him amazing.

Tom does excavation, which involves clearing and reshaping the land. I worked with him on the last house I built. He and his large, 30 ton excavator can clear a site in dense woods, carve and pave a road, and dig out a perfect basement, all in three days. His skill, speed, and reliability are unmatched. He's also self-taught.

TJ has built a life for himself and his family, from the bottom up. He is a testament to what can be accomplished with sensitivity, common sense, and perseverence.

Interview Excerpts
Read the full interview :

"I decided at a young age that I didn’t really like school. It was just boring. I liked it, but… it seemed like if there was one person in the class who didn’t understand what the teacher said, he’d just keep saying the same thing until the guy in the back got it. Well, he ain’t going to get it: he’s been out in the pits smoking pot all day. “It ain’t going to get to him there, sport!” So I would just kind of doze off and think about other things. I just kind of fumbled through school…

"It’s just like 17, 18. High school’s coming to an end, and what do I want to do with life? I want to kinda apply myself to machinery. So I decided, well, I’m young and full of energy, so I’m going into the logging business… I learned a lot of lessons through that. It was really good experience. I never would have seen that. I could have been buying an education when I was 50, but I was doing it in my 20’s. It taught me a lot about people. I got to say, that was a good time…

"You’ve just got to take the time. It’s just like I’ve told you from the beginning: I really enjoyed that farming and logging. Whatever you decide to do in the beginning, make sure you’re happy with it. Don’t just listen to Mom and Dad. Oh, man, you can make $300,000 a year as a lawyer, and you’ll dread every day you’re doing it…

"Take the time and think about what you really want to be, and when you decide what you want to be, pursue it with all you’ve got. Be the best that you can be… Just always stay focused, Lincoln, always. That would be my advice, whatever you decide to do, stay focused. There are opportunities out there. Anything you want to do."

Copyright © 2010, Lincoln Stoller. All rights reserved.