Ron Harvey made felling a tree and bucking it twice with a chainsaw in 30 seconds look easy.
His secret to success? Experience.
“It comes from doing this (logging) for 40 years,” he told Cowboy State Daily matter-of-factly.
He added that much of his experience in the industry was as a faller (the crew members responsible for dropping trees) as well as bucking – or cutting each tree’s main trunk into manageable sections.
Harvey was among numerous competitors in various timbersports events at the Woodchoppers Jamboree in Encampment. It’s run by the Riverside-Encampment Lions Club, and has been an annual event for more than 60 years. It’s hosted in conjunction with a rodeo and community parade.
Keeping Tradition Alive
Logging used to be an economic staple around Encampment, but the industry there has waned in recent years, Harvey said. Local timbersports competitions also used to be much more common in logging towns. But those, too, are getting rarer.
“It’s getting tougher to find events like this one,” he said.
Timbersports involve feats of skill and speed related to logging. In addition to chainsaw events, there was axe throwing, pole tossing, handsaw competitions, wood chopping and more.
Organizing the Timber Jamboree is no small feat, Harvey added. In addition to the scheduling and lining up dozens of participants, plenty of physical work must be done.
For instance, the trees used for the felling competition must be limbed (have all the branches cut off) and then the main trunks are placed in to the ground four to five feet deep at the base on the local fairgrounds. That way, they’ll be about as stable as actual trees in the forests, he said.
One of the younger contestants, Jake Hubbs, said he appreciates everything he’s learned from being around veteran loggers such as Harvey.
Hubbs did well in the tree falling too, although his saw’s whirling chain plowed into the dirt during one of his bucking cuts.
Even a moment’s contact with dirt is enough to dull a chain, he said.
“I’m definitely going to have to sharpen it now,” he said.
All About Friends, Family
Stephen Petit of Denver attends the Timber Jamboree and similar events across the region with his grown son and daughter, who also compete.
“It’s all about the family doing this together,” he said, as he caught his breath after competing
in a hand axe log-chopping event.
Rhonda Thacker and her husband Karl came from Gillette to compete in some of the events and spend time with friends who have also become regulars at the Timber Jamboree over the years.
“This is a very positive atmosphere,” she said. “We’re all competing, but everybody is also really supportive of each other.”
Between events, Karl Thacker and his friend Brent Sweem tinkered with a chainsaw that Thacker’s father had built from a motorcycle engine. It was one of several custom-build power saws that some people showed off at the jamboree.
“I’m not sure about all the details of how he put this together, but he does let me run it, which can be intimidating,” Karl Thacker said. “I remember way back when Dad first built it, he fired it up in the garage, and it was so loud, it about scared the piss out of me.”
Going For Distance, Speed
Many of the events were timed. And others involved distance – such as seeing who could heave a large timber pole the farthest in the kids’, women’s and men’s divisions.
Coy Lemmert of Laramie was practically sprinting through the jumbled logs left over from the tree falling contest as he raced against the clock in the “choker setting” contest. That involved pulling three cables attached to a piece of heavy equipment called a log skidder out through the fallen timber, and then attaching each cable to a separate log.
“It’s all about keeping your balance when you’re scrambling over those logs just as fast as you can go,” he said.
The pole toss is more complicated than simply heaving a chunk of wood, said Jake Tourville. He and his wife, Roxanne, have relatives in Encampment and have traveled from their home in California to attend the Jamboree for the past few years.
The trick is to flip the pole and hope
s that it keeps flipping end-over-end after it hits the ground – rather than just piling into the dirt and stopping, Jake Tourville said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.