Robert Earl Wyden was born and raised in south central Mississippi in the mid sixties. He was the only child of the Wyden family and as such he was afforded the opportunity to learn all the aspects of the lumber business from his father and the one helper he employed. Bobby Earl, as he was known, not only learned quickly but enjoyed the lumber business from estimation of a job to the actual cutting, hauling and dealing with landowners. He became especially adept at walking over a patch of timber and estimating quite accurately the amount of timber the plot contained. In the business this is known as ‘timber cruising.’
Bobby Earl had also grown up listening to his cousins from Virginia telling him about how great the state was and how wonderful the timber industry was doing and exploiting all the other great and beautiful aspects of it. Having nothing but their side of the story, his ideas of Virginia was a place of paradise and subconsciously he harbored a deep desire to see this Garden of Eden for himself. When the timber industry came to an almost standstill due to an economic downturn in Mississippi, Bobby Earl decided it was time to change locations. Packing up his belongings in his old Ford 150 pickup, he headed to Virginia.
Having already made up his mind he was going to stay in Virginia, and being prideful as he was, he had decided to get a job before visiting his cousins. After all, he did not want to appear to be on the bum or anything like that. As he crossed the line into Virginia, he saw a sign advertising an International Paper Company. On a whim he pulled into the visitor’s parking lot and filled out an application for employment in the personnel office. It was his lucky day. They had an opening they wanted filled immediately and from what Bobby Earl had written down he was perfect for the position. The foreman was called and the interview was started.
Bobby Earl was able to hold his own during the talking phase of the interview and the foreman was impressed. The foreman then informed Bobby Earl that the field test coming up was the crucial part of the test but was a necessary part of the interview. They loaded up in the foreman’s truck and drove for a few miles up into the forest. Stopping by the side of the road the foreman pointed at a tree and said,
“What kind of tree is that and how much lumber is in it?”
Bobby Earl stared at it for a minute and said, “That is a white pine and it has 246 board feet in it.”
The foreman was definitely impressed but said nothing. They drove a few miles more, then stopped and the foreman pointed at another tree and said,
“What about that tree?”
Bobby Earl looked at it and said, “That is a loblolly pine and it has 234 board feet in it.”
Now the foreman was feeling a little frustrated. So he drove another mile and pointed at another tree and said,
“Okay, how about that one over there?
“That is a Georgia Pin Oak. It has 343board feet or 348 board feet depending on how you cut the tree.”
Now the foreman is completely frustrated with his potential new-hire. Thinking to himself that he would fix the new hire’s wagon for good he stopped the truck, gave Bobby Earl a piece of chalk and said,
“I want you to put an ‘X’ on the front of that tree.”
Bobby Earl got out of the truck, went over to the tree and marked a circle around the tree with the chalk. Then he stepped back and marked a big ‘X’ on the tree. As he walked back to the truck wiping his boot in the gravel the foreman was aghast with his mouth open wide enough to throw a basketball in. He recovered himself enough to say,
“How in the hell do you know that is the front of that tree?”
Bobby Earl grinned and replied, “Cause somebody took a dump behind it!”
Bobby Earl got the job and not too long afterwards became the foreman.