Howard Pihlaja, at 86 years old, still the man to operate heavy equipment

“I just like to do it.” ... Howard Pihlaja drives the big machinery. It makes no difference to him or to the people who know him that he is 86 years old.

"When you've been driving them for as many years as I have, there's nothing to it," said Howard Pihlaja, Philip. "I just like do it."

At 86-years-old last October 17, and having driven big machinery since he was 15, Pihlaja still drives equipment such as road graders and bulldozers for a living. He has been working for Philip Livestock Auction for approximately 30 years as a jack-of-all-trades, but he is the man when it comes to operating the heavy stuff.

"I retired at 65. Figured all I had to do was drink beer and fish. The fishing got old, so I've been working another 20 years," said Pihlaja. He has been also going on 19 years of not having a drink.

Thor Roseth, who has taken over the ownership of PLA from his uncle, Jerry, said, "Howard has been a part of PLA for a long time. He likes to work - there's something kinda to that as well. He's the guy, when you have a project, I want you to know, he's the one to ask. He's done practically everything, building, welding, any dirt work project and any equipment."

Roseth, a Norwegian in heritage and not a tiny man in stature, said that Pihlaja, a not-too-large man, often says, "Watch out, this little Finlander will get the better of you."

"Howard built this building and a large number of the pens here," said Roseth. "He does all the snow removal with his blade." Though Pihlaja has sold his equipment to Roseth, in maybe a hint to someday really retiring, "It'll still be 'his' until he's not here. In everybody's minds, it's still his even if I did pay for it," said Roseth.