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Donny’s career has taken him all over, from West Virginia to Guam, as he’s used his skills as a heavy equipment operator to live in just about every conceivable corner of the US.
“I’m single and free ― no alimony, no child support, no mortgage, no big debt. If shit isn’t going the way I want, I go somewhere else.”
Donny grew up on a farm in Ohio and loved big iron from the beginning.
“When I was a little kid, I spent my time playing in my sandbox with little bulldozers and backhoes, and that’s what I wanted to do with my life. It all started in the sandbox with my dad. I have a picture of him and me where I’m giving him a big old hug, and there’s a little backhoe in the sandbox behind us.”
By the time Donny was seven years old, his father had attached blocks to the pedals of his tractor so that Donny could operate it himself. However, despite his love for heavy equipment, Donny’s parents wanted him to work in the factories as his father did.
“I took machine trades in vocational school to be a machinist and work in a factory like my dad. He’s a welder. That was the prescribed course of action for us farm kids, to do what our parents did. I was on my way to being a machinist, but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
Before long, Donny headed out on his own and ended up in Colorado, where he got his start as a snowcat operator.
“I built Keystone, Colorado’s first terrain park and halfpipe back in 1997. I opted for the snowcat because I like snowboarding and I got a free ski pass. I could groom the slope and go ride on it, which was way awesome. It gave me a whole new skill set, dealing with snow on a large scale. If they paid more, I would still be doing it. Snowcats are one of the most awesome pieces of machinery ever!”
After 12 years as a snowcat operator, Donny decided that he wanted a job that he could do year-round, so he got a job as a heavy equipment operator. It’s not a bad gig.
“I know we lack people in this trade, and lacking interest in this trade. I don’t know why, because who doesn’t want to run Tonka toys for a living? Especially when you get good at it, then it’s really fun. I love that sense of accomplishment when I get home.”Back to all stories