A Desire to Dig
June 17, 2022
Written By Jason Jenkins
There’s something about digging holes that little boys and girls just can’t resist. Whether it’s in the sandbox, the backyard or at the beach, few children will pass up the opportunity to play with toy bulldozers, backhoes and dump trucks, moving sand and soil to build moats around castles or little lakes to house handfuls of tadpoles.
Eventually, most outgrow this desire to dig and leave the toys behind. Some, however, just decide to get bigger toys. Kevin Seaton falls into this second category.
For more than three decades, Kevin has made his living from the cabs of all types of heavy equipment. Today, he is the owner of Seaton Excavating & Basements based in Unionville, Mo. Working primarily in north-central Missouri and south-central Iowa, Kevin is a second-generation excavator, a trade he learned from his father, Vern.
“Dad had his own business, and he was a working machine,” Kevin said. “He’d work sunup to sundown, 14 to 15 hours every day, and that was on a dozer with no cab, no air and no hydraulic blade. That cable blade was work.”
After graduating high school, Kevin moved to the Kansas City area and worked for his uncle, who was also in the excavating business. He’d eventually tire of city life, opting to return to Putnam County in the early 2000s.
“I started with a tracked excavator, working a couple days a week and fishing the rest of the time,” Kevin said with a laugh. “That was fun. But business kept growing by word of mouth, and before I knew it, it was a full-time job.”
Today, Kevin operates a full fleet of excavating equipment. Most of his work includes construction of ponds, field terraces and building pads, along with clearing for home sites and along field edges and fence rows. He also does some basement repair.
“We used to build basements, but concrete is stressful. I didn’t know what stress was until we got into that business,” Kevin said. “With concrete, if it isn’t right, you have to tear it out and do it again. Dirt is a lot simpler. If it isn’t right, you just move it.” When digging today, Kevin says an excavator must be extremely cautious, even after calling 811 to have underground utilities marked.
“There’s so much stuff buried in the ground nowadays,” he said. “Power lines, water lines, phone lines and fiber optics—you’ve got to be really careful. It’s not like the old days. Used to be, if you accidentally got into something, they’d come out and fix it. You’d apologize, they’d laugh at you and tell you not to hit it the next time. Now, you hit something, especially one of those fiberoptic lines, and you’re paying for it.”
Since starting his business, Kevin has relied on MFA Oil Company to supply both diesel fuel and oil for his heavy equipment. He currently serves as a delegate representing the bulk plant in Unionville. “Any time I need anything, they have me covered,” he added.
Kevin isn’t the only entrepreneur in the family. His wife, Shelly— who had been a middle school math teacher at Putnam County R-1 School District—operates Strive Time Nutrition. Located on the square in Unionville, the business offers protein smoothies, energizing teas and other health drinks. She’s also a sales agent for United Country Gilworth Real Estate and Auction.
Together, the couple has three children: Kaden, Jade and Karley. When they aren’t working, they enjoy attending their kids’ sporting events, riding ATVs, hunting, fishing, golfing and relaxing at nearby Lake Thunderhead.
At 50 years old, Kevin isn’t ready to park his bulldozer quite yet. In fact, he says his dad didn’t quit working until he was nearly 80.
“When you like what you do, it’s not really work,” he said.