John Mashak’s injection of yellow paint came about 65 years ago, when the now-79-year-old was just 15 years of age. That’s when he and his brother Rudy started using a Caterpillar Fifteen dozer for some wintertime logging work in the woods around their Iron Mountain, Michigan, dairy farm.
“It was a good-handling tractor,” Mashak says of the machine he thinks was a 1933 or 1934 model. “It would start even if it was 35 or 40 degrees below zero. It was a durable product in an environment that was rough on equipment.”
As time went on, the brothers took on more projects—land clearing and soil conservation work to start—and in the mid-1950s established their own business, Mashak Brothers Excavating Contractors. Their fleet of Cat® equipment grew, too. Mashak recalls owning D4 and D8H dozers, 225 and 416 backhoes, a 12 grader and a 627 scraper over the years. When it came to purchasing equipment, his first choice was always Caterpillar.
“IT WOULD START EVEN IF IT WAS 35 OR 40 DEGREES BELOW ZERO. IT WAS A DURABLE PRODUCT IN AN ENVIRONMENT THAT WAS ROUGH ON EQUIPMENT.”
“It’s a good, durable product that requires minimal maintenance,” Mashak says. “Cat machines are always known for accurate grading, good controls and being easy on the operator. They always bring the most money at resale, too—that says something.”
Over the course of his company’s six decades of operation, Mashak had the chance to work with several Cat dealers—Brebner, Kramer, Fabco and Fabick. While the names may have changed, he says the quality of the service never did.
“Product support was excellent. We always had good service no matter what the machine. If we called before 3pm, we’d have parts in our dropbox by 6am the next day.”
While they’re now mostly retired, Mashak and his brother still own a Cat D3 dozer and 426 backhoe and take on private jobs from time to time. The older Mashak has passed on his love for Caterpillar. One of his sons, also named John, has worked for Caterpillar for the past two years.
“As a Michigan native, a lot of my friends from college wanted to work for one of the Big Three automakers, and it was usually tied to the first car they drove or liked,” the younger Mashak says. “It was a little different for me. The first vehicle I ‘drove’ was a Cat D3. Growing up around machines and attaining a mechanical engineering degree made it feel like Caterpillar was a perfect fit.”
His dad agrees. “I always knew Caterpillar was a good company with lots of opportunity worldwide.”
Sounds like that’s two generations of the Mashak family with Cat yellow paint in their blood.