April 18, 1995 in Features

They’ll Chop Against Clock For The Axing

By The Spokesman-Review
 

People in other parts of the country might be surprised to hear it.

After all, some of them think we’ve got sawdust in our veins.

But the truth is you can live in this region for years and never see chainsaw-lugging guys in spike-soled boots sprinting up long inclined logs or watch women wield saws that are longer than the users are tall.

That’s the great thing about the annual Logger Sports Days at Spokane Community College. You get to see people doing Northwest 101 stuff that all but requires flannel shirts and suspenders. It’s like a folklife festival with axes.

And because it’s essentially college kids chopping away against the clock, you don’t even have to sort out your own timber politics to enjoy it.

A sign Saturday on the fenced-in competition area by the Spokane River said “Absolutely No Kids or Pets Inside of Gates.” Not far away, contestants took turns hurling longhandled axes through the morning air at big red bull’s-eye targets.

“Wouldn’t mess with her,” said a man watching an ax-throwing woman in a Flathead Valley Community College sweatshirt.

Whether it was the 50-foot poleclimb or the horizontal speed-chop, each event started with the folksy master of ceremonies calling into his microphone: “Timers ready … contestants ready … one … two . . . go!” Early on, it was mostly the competitors rooting for one another.

“Use the whole saw!”

Or “Hit it hard, Beth!”

But around midmorning, a few spectators showed up. One foursome, a twentysomething couple and two little girls, found seats in the bleachers right outside the fence just as the men’s vertical hard-hit was about to start.

The man decided he would choose one of the two contestants and root for that competitor. “I’ll take him,” he said, nodding toward a stocky kid wearing a work shirt with the sleeves cut off.

The guy in the stands then yelled to the stocky kid, asking him his name.

“Jason,” he replied softly.

The event required the ax-swingers to use home run motions to cut through a log on a stand. It didn’t take long. WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!

But Jason finished second.

The woman in the bleachers foursome whispered to one of the little girls. A second later the girl called out “Good try, Jason.”

And Jason sort of smiled.

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