Charlie and me went to the Woodsmen’s Competition down to Bouchard’s Farm this weekend. I gotta tell you, them Bouchard brothers are really thinking outside the box, in terms of keeping the farm goin.’ They already host a Small Engine and Tractor Show in July and the Pumpkin Festival, come October. I thought it would be fun for us to check out the Woodsmen’s Competition. After all, it’s part of my heritage.
My grandfather, George, was a lumberjack most of his life. I mean, in his heyday, he’d go into the woods for the entire winter. Wouldn’t come out again ‘til spring, just before the ground thawed. Legend has it, George could cut three cord of wood per day with a buck saw, and drop a tree so it landed just where he wanted it, every time.
Don’t know what George would have made of the whole thing. You know, people competing against each other, splittin’, cuttin’ and choppin’ wood. Jobs my grandfather grew up doin’ and was probably glad to see the back side of when he finally quit doing ‘em. But boy, we found it fascinating!
Where to begin? Well, axe throwing was the first thing that caught my eye. You should have seen them, men and women, competing against each other throwin’ that double-bit axe. You know, them axes with the cutting edge on both sides of the head. (Think “Braveheart” or “Last of the Mohicans,” only with better personal hygiene!) The axes fly through the air, end over end, biting into a target. Darn those folks were good! Especially this one little gal in a pink top, who didn’t look big enough to even pick the thing up. She just got one bulls eye after another.
There was wood splitting, of course, men’s and women’s division, where folks compete to see how fast they can split two logs into pieces small enough to fit through a hole in a wall. Man, some of those gals where rugged, whackin’ away at the wood like it was watermelon.
As you’d expect, there were lots of chainsawin’ events. Guys (and you know it has to be guys) wearin’ bright orange chaps (not a bad look), “wreckin’ wood” with loud machines. Charlie just loved it. Most events were “factory” chainsaws, but they saved the big guns for last, the modified chainsaws. In this event, men are competing to see who has the biggest, loudest, fastest, bad-ass chainsaw. We’re talkin’ chainsaws with mufflers and motorcycle or snowmobile engines. Really!
My grandfather, George, quit lumberin’ when they switched over to chainsaws, ‘cause those mechanical contraptions scared the bejesus out of him. Well, he’d roll over in his grave if he could see these fellas flying through 8”x8”s, three cuts, down, up, down, from a cold start. Meaning, they had to start the chainsaw, then cut off three pieces of wood. And most were clockin’ in at under three seconds.
I perked up at one point when the announcer said, “He has a cutout on the first cookie, and he’s DQ’d.” Cookies? Dairy Queen? Now we’re talkin’. Turns out, what he meant was that on one of the passes, the guy had cut off an incomplete piece of wood, and was disqualified. Disappointing for both of us!
While the chainsawin’ was impressive, I think I preferred the acoustic events. The ones I could picture my grandfather doin’. Like the bow saw or two-person crosscut. No tricks, just skill. A couple of times the announcer reminded us how, “Fast is slow. Slow is smooth. And smooth is fast.” There’s got to be a life lesson in there somewhere.
Then there was log rollin’. Teams of two had to roll this big mother of a log from one end of the course to another using just their peaveys. (Peaveys are them loggin’ tools with the spike and hook). There are two stakes on each end of the run. The log has to hit both stakes, going and comin’ back. This is easier said than done, ‘cause that log just doesn’t want to roll straight. It takes finesse and strategy to get it where you want it to go. When that didn’t work, some teams resorted to brute force, jamming their peaveys into the log and cross-haulin’ it, which means liftin’ and draggin’ a wicked heavy log while tryin’ not to “strain your riggin’!”
My least favorite event was the horizontal chop. Here the competitors stand on a piece of wood, then they swing an axe down between their feet, chopping at that wood facing one way, and then the other, until the wood block breaks in half. And most of ‘em were wearin’ only sneakers! I mean, come on! At least put on steel-toed boots! Wailing away with axes like that, it would be so easy to miss that wood and hit your foot. Yikes! Made me nervous, and apparently only a cup of homemade strawberry ice cream could calm me down!
What I found most interesting about the Woodsmen’s Competition was that it’s this whole little world I didn’t know nothing about. It’s what these folks do. I mean, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. It’s their thing, their passion, and they go at it full bore. I like that!
As the announcer said, “There’s a difference between being involved and being fully committed. Take bacon and eggs. The chicken is involved, but the pig is fully committed.”
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!