Doug Lavender is a quiet, soft-spoken kind of guy. As the owner of Myers Cedar Yard in Lampasas, he’s just about seen it all when it comes to the fencing trade, and now his eyes light up. Lavender has some fond recollections of the colorful characters that supply his cedar supply businesses.
“Choppers (the still-current term for the men who cut the ashe junipers, even though chainsaws have replaced axes) are definitely one-of-a-kind,” he said. “You had your Kerrville (based) clan as well as choppers in this (Central Texas) area. They’re separate, and each group was full of kin — maybe 15 interrelated families would descend on a big ranch, pitch tents and live there for months, if need be, until all the cedar was harvested. It’s a hard existence and the people were rugged.”
Lavender’s stepfather “grew up in a chopping family,” and the two of them started the cedar post yard in 1982. Myers has flourished, and now has a location in Meridian, too. The majority of sales are from 4- to 6-inch diameter line posts and 8-foot corner posts of 7-inch or greater diameter. The business also sells oak and mesquite firewood, dimensional cedar lumber, split rail fencing and interior items.
“Our cedar lumber is air dried and rough cut,” Lavender said, pulling a 2-by-4 from the bin. It measures a true 2 inches by 4 inches instead of the 1½ by 3½ inches of milled wood commonly available.
“Bacon board has been a good seller,” he adds, showing the rough-edged, unpeeled 1-inch thick product. Of
varying widths, bacon board has alternating hues from the whitish-yellow of sapwood to the ruddy reddish-brown of the heart, not unlike a mega-size slice of pork bacon.
There are peeled posts, shiny with oil-based finish for porches or interior decoration, massive cedar slabs sanded and finished for mantelpieces, rocking chairs and, of course, the requisite cedar chests for sale. Rough finished boards are stocked for folks wanting to line closets with the aromatic wood.
“We take special orders,” Lavender said as employee Carmen Bishop from Kempner hands the order book to him. “If a customer wants a huge trunk for an interior beam, for example, we’ll put out the word to our choppers and they’ll find one and bring it in.”
Located south of Lampasas on U.S. Highway 183, the actual size of Myers isn’t readily visible from the road. “We have six acres,” Lavender said, and the large area behind his buildings is packed with stacks of unpeeled fenceposts. Pickup trucks towing trailers are being loaded with posts in two separate areas while a trio of choppers have just brought in a mountain of cedar to sell to Lavender. Besides assorted “freelance” choppers, the business employs crews that continually harvest the hardy, drought-resistant wood. Landowners benefit in two ways: riddance of an undesirable, water-hog of a plant as well as receiving a percentage of the revenue derived from sale of the wood.
Noting “a pretty constant demand” for his posts, Lavender said the rising price for metal alternatives like T-posts and pipe have made cedar financially feasible. “In the moister regions, rust is a factor, and cedar lasts much longer.” So, what’s it like, working in an atmosphere permeated continually with that bracing fresh scent, the aromatic fragrance of cedar?
Lavender looks a bit sheepish as he replies. “I guess it’s an occupational hazard,” he said, “but I actually can’t smell it anymore.”