I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay.
I sleep all night. I work all day.
(Excerpt from Monty Pythons Lumberjack Song)
If you’re somewhat of a sports enthusiast like me, you’ll learn to appreciate those dead hours in the early afternoon. They usually occur between two and four when you’ve grown tired of watching ESPN showing re-runs of last nights SportsCenter. As you sit there nursing your beer and waiting for happy hour to begin, you might ask the bartender to “flip over to The Deuce”. It’s there that you’ll see something unique and in a way, a throwback to the days when men were men and lumberjacks were, Monty Python’s parody aside, lumberjacks. (In a tribute to progress, there’s even a female lumberjack competition that also takes place! I’m not sure but I think the ladies are called “lumberjills”.)
Yes folks, as what seem like miles and miles of blue and red flannel wash over the television set, a real competition with some hefty prize money is at stake. Beefy guys who look like they eat steak right off the cow are butting heads in what can often be a tiresome and grueling exercise. Besides the aforementioned prize money, there’s also pride and bragging rights on the line.
Usually the competition is broken down into six or so main events. When all is said and done, sawdust and wood chips are often all that remain as a badge of honor.
In this little event, the contestants use razor sharp saws that are about six feet in length to try and slice through chunks of wood that are over a foot thick. They seem to be able to do it with the efficiency of a power saw. No gas powered engines for these guys, just pure muscle and technique. The type of wood might vary depending on where the competition is being held and the winner is the one who gets through the wood in the fastest amount of time.
You gotta be a little nuts to attempt this one. Using an axe the weighs in at about six pounds, contestants first climb aboard a piece of wood about a foot or so thick. They then position their legs and balance themselves on said chunk. When someone screams “GO”, they raise the axe above their head and bring it crashing down right between their legs and inches away from other vital body parts. When they’re about halfway through the log, they turn and face the other way and keep chopping until the log snaps in half. Fastest time and most intact body parts wins!
We’ve all heard the saying that “What goes up, must come down” and lumberjacks and jills are no different. In this contest, the participants get to show off their agility, speed, and lack of fear as they race up a pole 60 feet in the air in as little fifteen seconds. Monkeys and other animals that make climbing things their forte would be proud. The way up is all muscle as they dig their gaffed boots and harness into the pole. They way down is pure balls as they drop the sixty feet without seemingly pausing to stop. The first one to hit the “crash mat” on the way down is declared the winner.
Another one of those “you gotta be freakin’ kiddin’ me” kind of events. Armed with an axe and two springboards which are five feet long, two inches thick and about eight inches wide, the contestants cut notches in a nine foot tall pole. They then climb about two thirds of the way up and while balancing themselves on the springboard, they chop off the remaining third of the pole. Balance and precision are pre-requisites.
Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines! With chainsaws that would make the dude in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre envious, contestants plow their way through pieces of wood that about fourteen inches thick in mere seconds. A steady hand and concentration go a long way in determining the ultimate winner in this one.
Better know to aficionados as “birling”. In this event, competitors face off against each other in a test of balance, skill, and wits as they perch themselves on opposites side of a log that is floating in a pool and try to “spin” their opponent off the log. The log varies from twelve to fifteen inches in diameter. Some matches have a time limit of two minutes and if neither contestant falls in the water, the match is declared a draw. Some matches are best two out of three so that competitors can switch which end of the log they are balanced on.
There’s a movement afoot that has tradionalists of the sport aghast. It seems that some folks want to cover the log in a carpet to assure that each competitor has equal footing and that no-one has an unfair advantage. Old schoolers want the sport to remain just as Mother Nature intended.
There are some other events such as Axe Throwing which is like darts only with a five pound double edge axe. The object is to hit the bulls eye. Something called “Tree-Topping” where these folks will climb to the top of a tree, lash themselves to it and saw off the top. Last but not least, there’s the ever popular “Chainsaw Carving”. Here the athletes become artists as they use their tools of the trade to fashion “art” out of various sized chunks of wood.
In closing, I’d just like to say that while I’ve never met a lumberjack or lumberjill in real life and even if Monty Python’s parody is true, these look like some pretty rough and tough customers and you’d be best not to tangle assholes with them.
Source(s) – too much time sitting at the bar with little to do and nothing on my mind.