Many at the Crawford County Fair know his work even if they don’t know Gary Theuret — and they would really know it if he called in sick for a day or two.
2019 will be the 37th consecutive year that Theuret, 74, has been the fair’s “manure man” — the fellow who collects and hauls away all of the manure produced by livestock during the event.
“I guess now you know why my blood is turning brown,” Theuret joked on Wednesday from the Blooming Valley home where he lives with his wife, Leslie. “It’s just one of those things that gets in your blood.”
Such comments are typical of Theuret, according to Dennis Archacki, the long-time friend who will present Theuret with the Crawford County Agricultural Industry Hall of Fame award during the county fair this summer. The award honors Theuret’s namesake company, Theuret Excavating, which has served the agricultural and construction industries of northwestern Pennsylvania since the 1970s.
“He’s quite a character,” Archacki said of Theuret. “He’s just got a great sense of humor — just loves to have fun.”
When Archacki introduces Theuret at the Hall of Fame dinner in August, it won’t be the first time Theuret has received such a significant honor from his colleague in the excavation field. In 2013, when Archacki received the Ag Industry Award at the fair, he gave Theuret the unofficial “Silver Pitchfork” award for his three decades of manure-hauling service to the fair — proving that Archacki likes to have some fun, too.
But Archacki didn’t anticipate what Theuret would do over the next year: He hauled the pitchfork with him to meetings and gatherings all over northwestern Pennsylvania, even taking it as far as a contractors’ convention in Gettysburg the following spring, as he told Tribune readers in a first-person account of his role at the fair in 2014.
The fun Theuret finds, even in the parts of life that don’t smell so sweet, has come against a background of decades of hard work.
“He likes to do a good job, that’s one thing about him,” said Ed Tatalovic, the truck driver who has been Theuret’s manure-hauling partner at the fair for more than 15 years. “He doesn’t do a sloppy job — doesn’t just get in, get out. He makes sure everything gets cleaned up nice and does a real good job.”
Theuret’s entry into excavation work came about half a century ago when he was temporarily laid off and took a job with S.J. Groves, the construction firm working on Interstate 79.
Theuret enjoyed the work and his boss, particularly after the initial “let’s see how good this kid is” phase, and gained more experience with excavating machines as he helped to lay the large pipes needed for stormwater control.
“I’m a country boy, so I’d been around farms and everything,” Theuret said, recalling his start in handling heavy machinery, “so you’re around stuff.”
Before long, Theuret launched his own company and was “around stuff” even more. By 1979, he joined the board of the Pennsylvania Land Improvement Contractors of America, later serving as president. Theuret was there when PLICA members in one day hauled all the fill dirt needed for the Livestock Complex at the county fairgrounds, with 22 dump trucks running back and forth from the county home to the fairgrounds.
Over the years, Theuret Excavation performed a variety of services, many of them for agricultural customers: septic system installation, pole building construction, top soil screening and more. Theuret even operated a gravel crusher — “making small rocks out of big ones,” in his words.
“I had a hand in a lot of stuff,” Theuret said.
Now Theuret still has his hand in the fair and the occasional excavation job, but he has transitioned into semi-retirement, “pushing to be permanently retired.”
He doesn’t envy the excavators working during the current rain-soaked construction season and all the demands likely to follow as soon as the sun makes a brief appearance.
“Boy, I’m glad I’m not in business now,” he said. “I’d have ripped the phone out of the wall.”
He’s not completely retired, however, and still performs some excavation work and, of course, his work at the fair, where he sees fair friends of many years and keeps an eye out for youngsters that he is glad to see continuing the county’s agricultural traditions.
“I’m nothing special,” Theuret said after reviewing just a few of the highlights in a remarkable career that has lasted more than 50 years. “I always had good guys working for me — that makes a difference, too.”
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.