John May approached the late Tucker Blankenship and his son the late Charles Blankenship in November 1975. He sold May Manufacturing to The Blankenships and BIG JOHN Tree Transplanter Manufacturing Inc. was formed January 21st, 1976. Many endeavors came from that November 1975 meeting. The first tree transplanter manufactured under the BIG JOHN banner was the Model 78. The Model 78’s nomenclature is derived from the diameter of its root ball and could dig up nine inch caliper trees. The Model 78 led BIG JOHN into the inspiration of manufacturing multiple models and sizes of tree transplanters.
John May’s enthusiasm led him to the creation of a working prototype of the Model 50 in less than four months. The Model 50 could dig up five inch caliper trees. The Model 50 is no longer manufactured at BIG JOHN, but its creation was the stepping stone to build the biggest machine of that time within legal requirements. Ninety days later John May presented a working prototype of the Model 88 to Mr. Blankenship. The Model 88 could dig up a twelve inch caliper tree.