Russ Huck has been repairing small engines fulltime at Power Play Performance for almost a year now. He had been doing the same work evenings and weekends for most of the previous six years since coming to Harlowton.
Russ worked for Rocky Mountain Cookware manufacturing griddles and broilers until last winter. “I got laid off. Then was called back to work. And, I got behind in my own business when I went back to making griddles. So, I made the break and things have stayed busy since.”
Huck was born and had spent his whole life in Lewistown before moving here. Prior to the move, he worked for seven years at Lewistown Honda and six at Central Montana Yamaha. Any difference working on a Honda or Yamaha? “No. You get dirty working on them all.”
“I worked with my dad (Huck Construction) before that. We did concrete work, fencing, and the like.” Russ’s brother, Clint took over Huck Construction some years ago.
Russ started doing parttime small engine work almost as soon as he moved here. “I had a little corner to work after hours when I was at Rocky Mtn Cookware.”
Now (last 4 years), he works out of his garage next to Wade’s Drive-In. Huck repairs lawnmowers, weedeaters, chainsaws, motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, and snowblower. He doesn’t do any sales, YET. “People always pay for repairs, even if it takes time.”
Snowmobiles and snowmobiling seem to be Huck’s major interest. Working on one snowmobile (Yamaha, Polaris, Arctic Cat, Skidoo) or another “can be a pain. Most snowmobilers are competitive. They want longer tracks, more horsepower. Which allow them to go through deeper snow. Go straight up mountains.”
Has he had any close calls on his snowmobile? “No, but I’ve been in some tough spots. I got out okay. I always go out with at least one other sled. I’ve had to pull out sleds before.”
“Springtime is usually the busiest season, although the winter was really busy. People get their lawnmowers out.”
Customers seem to be finding Huck’s Power Play Performance “without any advertising.”
Still, “They are making it tough on mechanics like me these days because for some small engine equipment - like weedeaters - you can buy a new one cheaper than you can get it repaired.”
Is Huck a motorhead (he rebuilt his first engine when in the 7th grade)? “Maybe a gearhead. Better a sledhead. I love snowmobiling. I grew up snowmobiling. We had to take the snowmobile to get the ten miles to Cottonwood Creek School many times in the winters. We bundled up and Dad took us to school.”
The Huck family didn’t farm but lived in the country south of Lewistown.. “We had a couple cows and some chickens.” Brother Clint now runs Huck Construction out of Harlowton. Brother Jeff lives in Moore and works for Casino Creek Concrete. “The Hucks poured a lot of concrete. But, I was smart and got out of it.”
Huck’s parents moved to Harlowton about 20 years and first ran an RV court. Later, they built Huck Mini Storage.
While Russ has never competed in winter snowmobile events, he is getting ready to go to the Yellowstone Snowmobile Expo March 15 to 17. “It’s a pretty bid deal. They will have Free Style Competitions and Snowcross Racing.”
Huck did drag race his snowmobile on asphalt at the Lewistown Race Track, one summer. “You have to take the skis off and replace them with double wheels on the front. A racing track goes on the back. It is pretty spendy.” He got his machine racing above 100 miles per hour.
In the summer, Huck gets out to the mountains regularly four-wheeling on Forest Service trails. He is also a big game hunter. “I shot my first elk this year.”
What is best about his small engine repair business? “Being on my own and just getting to work on different machines. And, the satisfaction of making things run that somebody else couldn’t.”
Problems with the business? “It’s getting to the point that machines that have been sitting for years - like snowmobiles for lack of snow, require lots of work to get them going again. You have to go through everything.”
Russ has people coming from as far as the Missouri Breaks, “because they knew my work from when I was at the Lewistown dealerships.”
Mr. Huck has a waiting list for repair work, right now. He prefers customers to call for appointments, “because I’m usually behind.” Some day, he would like to expand and have a larger work space. That might mean even more work. Hopefully, there will still be time for play.