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July 28, 2016     The Woodville Republican
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Page 6 The Woodville Republican, Thursday, July 28, 2016 Old River Trucks Into Archaeological Studies Continue, Digs At Two Wilkinson County Indian Mounds On Hwy. 24 by Ted Carter Mississippi Business Journal Richland-based and fami- ly-owned Old River Trucks, one of Mississippi's and the nation's top selling Volvo tractor-trailer dealers and servicers, doubled its size June 1 with acquisition of a trio of Mack truck deal- erships in south Louisiana, according to a recent news release published in the Mississippi Business Jour- nal. Company founder and former Woodville resident Lee White says he saw ac- quisition of the Mack deal- erships in New Orleans, Lafayette and Lake Charles "as an opportunity that probably will never come again." It also preempted a large Texas Mack dealer from moving into Louisiana and setting up shop a state away from Mississippi. The Texans would have grabbed the dealerships right up, said White, who put the val- ue of the acquisitions in the "tens of millions." White, who has had the Volvo truck dealership since 2000, had been in- quiring about the Louisi- ana Mack truck sales and service centers for several years. So when owner Par- ish ,Truck Sales decided to sellE the company came to White frst. Parish had challenges with everything from effec- tive management to cost control to inventory but still made money, White said. The acquisition represented an opportunity to fix things and grow profits, he added. "Due diligence told us we knew we could take some costs out," White said. And, besides, he added, "I felt like this is what I've always done. You've got to put the capital back at risk." White got rid of the top management, elevated some lower-level manag- ers to higher positions and brought in some of his Mis- sissippi managers. "This needed to be a statement that things were going to change," he said. The acquisitions added 90 workers to Old River's 104-person workforce. Adding the former Par- ish Co. Mack dealerships and service centers to its Richland, Laurel and Baton Rouge Volvo truck opera- tions gives Old River both a wider market and wider product mix, White noted. "This diversifies us from Volvo to Mack. We're going after two markets." With two markets, if one slumps the other may rally, he said, and added he is counting on an eventual rebound of the oil and gas market that propels this region of Louisiana's econ- omy. "I think we are sitting in the right spot in south Loui- siana," White said. STUDENT WORKERS AT SMTIH CREEK MOUND SIGN ON HWY. 24 WEST m A portion of the In- dian mound archaeological excavation crew are pictured at the new MiSsissippi Mound Trail sign at Smith Creek Indian Mounds on Hwy. 24 west of Woodville. Pictured from left to right, are as follows: Wiktoria Moroz (The College of New Jer- sey), Ben Davis (alumni of Tulane University), Isaac Burg (Hampshire College), Jacob Dooley (Fort Adams), Robert Prospere (Natchez), Justin Reamer (University of Pennsylvania), Kyle O1- son (University of Pennsylvania), Anna Graham (University of North Carolina). The group is led by Meg Kassabaum, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Submitted Photo The product diversity goes beyond the Volvo and Mack brands. Both are Class 8 trucks, meaning they have the heaviest com- mercial truck weights on the road, but typically fulfill different functions. The Volvo truck is more likely to be used for long hauls of container freight while the Mack is more lo- cation focused and serves industries such as logging and oil and gas tanker transport, Old River says. Mack is owned by Volvo. More immediately, White sees the acquisitions giving Old River increased buying power that will benefit each location. ,White said he received lending support for the ac- quisitions from Volvo Fi- nancial Services and Loui- siana-based Origin Bank. White grew up on a farm in southwest Mississippi about 20 miles from Wood- ville. He lost his father to electrocution at age 14 and later had to leave Ole Miss after a year and a half, hav- ing run out of money. White took a relative up on a suggestion he check into selling wire rope to log- gers. In 1981, he converted a barn on the family farm to an office and warehouse. Soon after that, White went mobile m an old Dodge pickup truck he drove to logging camps across the region, selling tree harvest- ing products out of the back of the truck. By 1983 he had enough capital to buy a building in tiny Crosby, though he re- called, "I wasn't old enough to buy a building." He sold fuel all day as well as the wire rope, chains and other logging products. Soon after, he added tires, brakes and other mechani- cal equipment for logging trucks. The late 1980s marked a full entry into selling truck parts under the Mack name. "I became a sub-deal- er for Mack," White said. "We were authorized to sell parts and service to Mack trucks." He continued to sell log- ging products. Georgia-Pa- by Meg Kassabaum, PhD University Of Pennsylvania Though my experience with Mississippi archaeology start- ed ten years ago when I began excavating a site in Jefferson County, I have been working in Willdnson County since 2013. It was in February, 2013, that I began working for the Mississippi Mound Trail project which is organized by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The Mound Trail links 30 mound sites throughout western Mis- sissippi and the two south- ernmost sites are in Wilkin- son County. After excavating at beth the Lessley and the Smith Creek sites as part of this project, I decided to focus my future research at Smith Creek. The Smith Creek site con- sists of three mounds sur- rounding an open area called a plaza. All three mounds and the plaza are visible from Highway 24 and a pull-offhas been constructed around the historical marker. '%Ve knew from our early excavations the site dat- ed to the Coles ~'Creek and Plaquemine periods (approxi- mately 700 to 1300AD). Exca- vations in the summer of 2015 suggested that the mounds were built primarily during the earlier Coles Creek pe- riod and that the edges of the plaza were occupied heavily during the later Plaquemine period, but the season left us with as many questions as it did answers," Dr. Kassabaum explained. She continued, '~]fis sum- mer, I, along with a crew of twelve students, excavated three units: one along the northeastern edge of the plaza and two on top of Mound A, the largest mound at the site. Both units provided important information about the prehis- toric Native American people who built and used the Smith Creek mounds." The plaza unit showed evi- dence of at least two periods of prehistoric habitation. One oc- curred during the Plaquemine period and produced an in- credible number of artifacts in- cluding an ear spool, a qflartz DIGGING INTO THE PAST -- Gradu- ate students are shown excavating a hole in the plaza area between three Indian mounds located at the Smith Creek site located on Hwy. 24 west of Woodville. Dr. Meg Kassabaum, at right, group leader for this archeo- logical study, is shown keeping a careful eye as her students work cau- tiously as they seek to uncover In- dian artifacts during an archaeologi- cal study this summer. -- Woodville Republican Photo by Andy J. Lewis crystal, bone tools, decorative materials, large numbers of projectile points and massive amounts of pottery. "In addition to these ar- tifacts, we excavated lots of posthole features that prob- ably represent the remains of a series of houses in the northeast plaza. Under these features, we located a portion of a ditch that was dug as part of a large circular structure that stood in that location be- fore the Plaquemine houses. This structure is probably over 30 feet in diameter and will need to be excavated in a future season," said Dr. Kas- sabaum. "On top of Mound A, we located a series of mound surfaces that represent pre- vious living surfaces on the summit of the mound. A num- ber of post holes on this sur- face suggest that a building might have been present on the mound around 1000 AD. Additional excavations will be needed to determine how big this building may have been and for what it might have been used." UNIQUE OBJECT FOUND -- An ear spool recov- ered from the Smith Creek plaza excavation unit is shown at right above with a depiction of someone wearing ear spools in the left side of the photo. -- Submitted Photo cific, International Paper and other timber companies were aggressively harvest- ing. "We were right in the center of it," White said. Soon he expanded the "Mack parts and service to the Pine Belt with a store in Columbia and Waynesboro. And by then he had bought out the wire rope supplier in Mobile. White's opportunity to actually sell tractor trailers came in 2000 when Volvo CRYE*LEIKE STEDMAN REALTORS', INC. agreed to let him take over a failed Volvo truck fran- chise. At first the Swed- ish vehicle manufacturer wanted to limit White to parts and service. "I said I want the whole dealership," he said. Volvo declined but a month later "came back with hat in hand and said, "What would it take for you to take over the whole deal- ership?" White said. He established Old River Trucks in an old building equipped with six work bays and a "mud hole" for a parking lot on the north side of 1-20. A big strike came early on with a contract to sell 180 trucks over a three- year period. By 2004, Old River had achieved enough success to buy five acres di- rectly across the interstate and build a 20,000 square- foot building. Today, that building is the parts and service outlet on Old River's 18-acre complex. "We steadily grew and were tops in sales nation- ally (for Volvo trucks) by 20067 White said, adding Old River had added leas- ing and rentals of Volvo trucks to its product offer- ings. A second big strike came with a sales contract with Richland refrigerated truck- ing company KLLM Trans- portation for 200 trucks an- nually. Added in recent years are major truck buyers Phoenix Transportation of Forest and Jordan Carriers of Nat- chez, according to White. Today Old River has a fleet of 300 trucks for leas- ing and rentals after start- ing out with four of them, White said. That business took off with the economic down- turn of 2007-08, he said. "In 2009, we did not have a record year in sales but we had a record year in profits." Old River made its first venture into Louisiana with the purchase of a struggling Baton Rouge Volvo truck dealership. "It has been a difficult market down there," White said. "We've invested a lot of time and money in making sure we keep the. customers satis- fied." The end of last year brought Old River's latest expansion with the addi- tion of a 30,000-square-foot building on the company grounds. The Great Recession in the last decade brought lasting change to commer- cial trucking, with Class 8 tractor-trailer rigs on North American highways declin- ing from 306,000 in 2006 to fewer than 250,000 today. "Trucking has never got- ten back to where it was in 2006," White said. One result of the shrunk- en fleet nationally is that trucks stay busier and need more parts and servicing, according to White. Some softness on the sales side has set in for Old River in 2016, a circum- stance White attributes to declining oil and gas activ- ity. But on the whole, said White, "Our business has been good across the board." The company declined to reveal its annual revenues. white and wife, Dee, have full ownership of Old River. "We're not through," he said, alluding to possible new markets and acquisi- tions. Whatever Old River does. White said, starts with sat- isfied customers "going out the back door and coming through the front door." ?'