published Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Embedded: Big Woody’s Tree Service

  • photo
    Cody Watkins, owner of Big Woody's Tree Service, cuts limbs from a tree in the yard of an East Ridge, Tenn., home on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo


Name: Cody Watkins

Job: Owner of Big Woody’s Tree Service

Years on the job: 14

Challenges: Working around obstacles, whether it’s houses, power lines or even people

Best part: “We have the best equipment, so the jobs are easy” and “We get to go to new places almost every day.”

Worst part: “Trying to get to the jobs.” School zones, traffic and wrecks slow the crews down. And finding a good driver can be hard sometimes.

It’s a sultry summer morning, and the Big Woody’s Tree Service guys are already at it.

You know them, or have at least seen their logo — the beaver and the log.

“Well-photographed,” Cody Watkins said with a laugh.

Watkins is the owner of Big Woody’s, which was started in 2006 and is based in Apison.

Big Woody’s performs a variety of services — land clearing, tree removal, tree planting, mulching — from Dalton, Ga., to Athens, Tenn.

Watkins has been serious in the tree business since 2000.

“I’ve been around trees my whole life,” he said.

Now an entrepreneur and owner of his own company, Watkins hasn’t given up work. He’s right out there with his crew, often up in the bucket cutting large trees from the top down.

During the peak season, Watkins said Big Woody’s employs up to 15 guys. Spring is the busiest time of year, he said.

A combination of mulch demand and damaging storms keeps the company hopping. During the tornado outbreak of 2011, Watkins said Big Woody’s had as many as 30 guys on staff at one time.

But Watkins likes to keep the crew slim, because it’s easier to oversee, and he wants to emphasize quality over quantity.

“If you’re running two full crews, it’ll wear you out,” he said.

Right now, Big Woody’s does around two jobs a day, five days a week. And the company gets one or two emergency calls a week, on average, said Watkins.

Just this week, his crew was called out when lightning struck a tree and fire crews struggled to put it out.

To keep up with demand and enable the company to do up to 12 jobs a week, Watkins said he is continually investing in machinery.

“A machine can do three times the work a man can do,” he said.

Right now, the Big Woody’s fleet consists of eight heavy trucks for hauling and mulch, 12 machines for various uses and a couple of pickups.

The company has big tractors, small tractors, dozers, chippers — whatever the job calls for, said Watkins.

And all materials are recycled, said Watkins, whether for mulch or lumber.

  • photo
    Cody Watkins, owner of Big Woody's Tree Service, cuts limbs from a tree in the yard of an East Ridge, Tenn., home on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

Big Woody’s also tries to knock out more than one job when they come to an area to cut down on fuel prices, which Watkins said gets passed down to the customer.

“The more you have to do, the better price you get,” he said.

And he said there’s no project too crazy for Big Woody’s to tackle .

“If they’ve got the dollars for it, we’ve got the time,” said Watkins.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at or 423-757-6480.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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