COLEBROOK, N.H. - By most accounts, Eddie Nash was a nice guy, even though he maintained a typical northern New England reserve when meeting strangers. He was polite, but not overly talkative - unless you told him you want to buy a used skidder.
Then he would tell you anything you wanted to know about skidders, which are four-wheeled machines used for dragging logs out of the woods. He would tell you about any of the 50 or so skidders he had for sale, and any other piece of large machinery you may have been interested in.
Nash ran a thriving, if sometimes controversial, business selling, buying and trading used forestry, construction, farming, and trucking equipment.
Nestled between Colebrook and Dixville Notch along a country road, Nash and Sons' Equipment sticks out just as you'd expect a massive used-machinery dealership would along a scenic drive in a peaceful river valley. Hulking yellow, red and green machines with 5-foot tall ribbed tires and massive steel tracks that look like teeth lay at rest in three lots along Route 26. Almost 350 diesel-and gas-powered machines with hydraulic arms sit on a total of about 30 acres.
Nash knew that in this kind of bucolic setting you couldn't run this kind of business without some backlash. Both the town and the state took him to court over several issues, including the town's view that his business constituted an "unlicensed and improperly fenced-in junkyard."
On the other hand, people came from all over New England, New York, and Pennsylvania to buy backhoes, dozers, bush hogs (attachments for mowing bushes), tedders, (for spreading out hay to dry before it's bailed), and front-end loaders. Need parts for a 1942 Ford tractor? Odds are that they are probably tucked away somewhere on those three lots.
Nash, started farming before discovering an easier way to make money.
"How's that saying go? If you find the job you really like, you never have to work another day in your life? That's me," he said.
In a soft voice, Nash described the back-breaking work of running a dairy farm in Colebrook to support his wife and four children. He quit farming over 20 years ago.
"We used to start around 5 in the morning and it would be around 8 o'clock when we were done," he said, "Not much money in it for all the work that is involved. I know I wouldn't want to do it again. Anything's better than farming."
He came upon the idea of buying, selling, and trading used equipment while hauling feed, fertilizer, and soil to supplement his income from farming. Often, he would accept a tractor or tedder as payment from a farmer who didn't have the cash to pay him. Nash would sell that equipment for cash to keep his operation running.
After a couple of those transactions, Nash realized he was making a decent profit.
"Gosh Darn! Didn't take me long to get into that business," he said.
That was over 40 years ago, The company, which will continue operations, has 30 employees and travels to used equipment auctions all over the country. Some skidders and dozers have been exported as far as far as Bolivia and Belgium.
About half of their customers are individuals with only a little money, willing to risk most everything they have to buy a big machine on the chance that they can make a lot. They go to Nash and Sons because they will provide the kind of in-house financing that many banks won't offer when someone with no experience wants to buy a skidder to get into forestry work.
With $1,000 to $2,000 down, for instance, someone can try the forestry service market, which could yeild $2,000 to $3,000 a week.
But it's not easy work, and it's tougher to make a profit if you don't have buyers for your wood, Before you walk away with a Nash machine, they make sure you can operate it, and if you're breaking into a profession, that you have a market.
Nash accepted animals, snow machines, motorcycles, and cars as collateral. Only occasionally did he have to keep the collateral.
"I like to see a guy make it. You understand how a school teacher feels when a student grows up to be great," he said.
Archie Bussino, 56, of Mount Holly, Vt., is a former construction worker who entered the forestry business when faced with a cut in pay at his previous job. He bought his first from Nash.
"I was up against it. And here's this man who would finance me. If it hadn't been for someone like Eddie, I wouldn't have gotten into this business," Bussino says explaining that other equipment dealers in New Hampshire and Vermont require up to 40 percent down payment, which in some cases amounts to $10,000.
"Eddie is an institution," said John Harrigan, publisher of the local News and Sentinel newspaper, in an earlier article. "You drive along some of the most beautiful pastoral scenes in the country and wham - you come upon this," the three lots of equipment and parts.
"Some people think that's like a wet wash rag in the face," Harrigan said. "To me, it's a breath a breath of fresh air. There has to be a place in this world for enterprisers like Eddie Nash. He wouldn't be here if people didn't need him."