Sunday, August 10, 2014

Logger Days: Darby, MT

You are going to quickly find that more of my stories and events are closer to home now that I am traveling a little less.  My company finally agreed to give me some help so I can say home a little more.  Ironically, I was home for a whole month this time and David was gone for 3 weeks of it.  So at the end of week two, my friend Joanne took pity on my solitude and invited me to accompany her and her visiting family to the annual Logger Days event about an hour down the road in Darby, Montana.

When I was growing up and considering possible college and/or career paths, it never even remotely came to my attention that Lumberjill (female Lumberjack) was an option.  Now I know that there are people who participate in this sport on college teams and adults who compete and are sponsored by companies that make chainsaws and axes like Stihl.  In fact, if you go to the Stihl webpage, you can find a link to their Timbersports team (suspiciously devoid of any Lumberjills at the moment).  They also had a link for "gear" but sadly this was only t-shirts and koozies, not a place to buy the chainmail toe protectors or chaps the competitors wore.

So even though I was woefully unaware of this option growing up in the city the way I did, my friend Joanne must think that I am exactly the kind of Jill they are looking for since the mentioned - twice - that we should get me signed up for next year.  I wasn't sure how to feel about that comment.  Was it a complement?  An insult?  Were the other people around me thinking the same thing?  Maybe since she has seen the machete I own first hand, she doesn't see it as a far cry for me to get an axe and some saws and go to town.

But the Jill's didn't look like either of us expected.  They looked very...regular.  None of them were very tall.  None were muscular.  Most looked like someone you would see walking through the Walmart parking lot on their way in to get groceries for the week.  And I mean even the way they were dressed.  Only one woman stood out as a competitor.  The others could have been in the stands and you wouldn't have known the difference.

The Jill to beat.  You could tell this before you even saw her do anything.  Something in the way she carried herself - very confident.  I looked her up later, Erin Lavoie.  She owns a Crossfit Gym (what else?) in Washington and holds two world records in the event pictured here:  The Underhand Chop.  She also holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most Christmas Trees chopped down in 2 minutes.
Here she is again, I think this event was called Single Buck.  The man in the red shirt is putting something down (water, WD40?) between the blade and the wood and when she gets far enough down, he will put a wedge in.
Even most of the men looked pretty regular.  There were only a couple that were big and most were wearing pretty regular looking clothes.  The guy in the photo above in the background wearing the black tank top is a competitor.
We are regularly encouraged by the emcee to cheer but I find myself so fascinated watching them that I generally forget about that part.  I am also a little distracted because we are right in the sun and I am the kind of person who could burn sitting in the shade at midnight. 

In this event they must chop into the "tree", put this board in and climb up to stand on it and do it again.  They chop in three times and stand higher and higher (about 8 feet by the end if I remember correctly) on this platform while they chop the top off.  Most of these events are timed and there are multiple heats.
There were other people competing...this guy just happened to be in a good spot for me to take photos most of the time.  This is the Cookie Stack.  They start with their hands on the top of the column.
Then they use a chainsaw to cut "cookies", as many as they can in the allowed time.
The cookies then must be transferred - without using your hands - to the next log over.  There were two methods.  Some moved one cookie at a time and some cut a bunch of cookies and moved a whole stack.  The problem was that sometimes when they got right to the end, the cookie would go flying off.  If you had a stack of 5 they would all fly together.
Several of the women competitors had the same last name as a male competitor.  Married couples?  Brother and sister?  Mother and son?  Not sure but it makes sense that this type of sport might be a family affair.  I think I might be able to get on board with this quicker than golf.  I wonder where you can buy one of those saws?
Ax throwing.  I bet I could get David to put me a bullseye out back.  We have plenty of room and our neighbors aren't that close.
Father and son competitors.  This one was easy to figure out since they were Junior and Senior.  Junior looked pretty intimidating with his giant chest and mohawk.
Next year - yes, I would absolutely go to this again - I will be prepared with an umbrella or to sit in one of the few shaded bleachers unless of course I am in the program in which case I will wear more sunscreen and a ball cap.  I wonder if Stihl gives them out free to their Jill's?  I might have to check into that.

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