Times have certainly changed since 1935 when Freddie and Herff Harris grabbed shovels and raced to see how fast they could load a 1-yard truck — but the principle at Harris Sand & Gravel hasn't changed.
The son of founder Freddie Harris, Leon notes, "Producing a quality finished material efficiently is key, and getting material from ground to truck in the most effective and efficient way is critical to our success."
In addition to the right choice of loading equipment and experienced operators, Leon explains how his operation relies on a cost-effective and efficient portable screening plant that will deliver a viable solution to his identified three main challenges:
- efficient production capacities
- quality finished product
- removing oversize material — roots, logs, etc.
According to Leon, focusing on efficient production is easier thanks to a long-standing relationship with McCourt & Sons Equipment, Inc., the region's specialist in portable plant systems. "We continually need and use a portable screening plant that can provide asolution to these challenges," Leon continues. "We have done business with the McCourt family for the past three decades. They have continually been creative and flexible in keeping our operation updated with the most modern screening equipment. At all times, the equipment we used has exceeded our production requirements, always produced quality finished screened sand, and always prevented oversize material from contaminating our finished product. It has also been very comforting that McCourt & Sons always maintains a continuous stock of wear items and parts for their equipment."
"Most recently, the McCourts have upgraded our operation with the addition of the new McCloskey S130 Screener. It is refreshing to see a portable screener with a Caterpillar engine powering the unit. I have looked at other screeners from other suppliers in the past and I did not like the fact that I may have to wait on parts coming from overseas or from out of state. Now, I can go to the local Cat shop and if I need something, it is right there."
The Harrises have seen the processing and transport of sand come a long way. Leon describes how his grandparents originally raised cattle on this sandy plot of south central Texas land. Every month, they would travel to San Antonio to buy groceries and visit with relatives.
"One evening when my grandparents had gone to San Antonio, someone knocked at the front door and asked my father and uncle if they could buy some sand. When my grandparents returned and saw the large hole in the front yard, they were extremely angry." The boys said, "Look at the money we made," but this still didn't impress their father. After a stern whipping, the boys, using a mule and sled, had to haul sand from the back acreage to fill the hole. But as the boys retold the story over the years to come, they were more impressed with the money they made that evening than with the whipping it cost them!
Parts of that back acreage are now some 70 feet lower than they were when Freddie and Herff first dug that front-yard hole. Today, sand and clay leaves the site at a rate of up to 10,000 tons a week. Leon and his two sisters, Beverly and Dorothy, still live on the property and run the operation.
Today, the Harrises produce and supply sand and clay to several different markets throughout the San Antonio area. Leon comments, "White screened sand is in popular demand with the asphalt contractors, while utility contractors use our material for bedding. We sell our red clay to cities that use the material on baseball diamonds because it packs harder. We can also custom mix materials for anyone. A popular item is our 50-50 top soil and red sand mix for residential yards and golf courses."
The new McCloskey screener is helping the firm keep pace with demand. Leon explains "Production on this new plant exceeds 325 tph. This is very impressive, especially with a 5-by-14 screenbox. Even in the rain, we still screen away. That hydraulic adjustment feature on the screenbox is very useful, especially if we need to flatten the screenbox out to allow for a little more screen retention of material. Our customers continually comment on how good the quality of our finished product is, and my loader operator loves the way the remote control raising and lowering of the hopper grizzly makes his job easy, keeping the roots and logs out of the screen, so he doesn't have to get out of the loader."
"Changing screens is easy with the way the fines conveyor and screenbox lower to the ground. That new 'High Energy' McCloskey screenbox has got a heck of an aggressive throw. It is a very accessible machine from a maintenance perspective, and if we need to move the machine to another part of the site, well, the tracks speak for themselves."
Leon has already begun training the next generation in the family how to run the operation. His nephew, William Saunders, aged 18, is one of Leon's helping hands over the busy season anticipated through the summer months. Leon comments, "Keeping it in the family and using the right experienced people will keep our now legendary local business around for years to come. Using the most efficient, effective and modern equipment is critical, too, for the future success of the business. I look forward to what McCloskey and the McCourts will upgrade us to next."