Lumberjacks show off skills
CASSOPOLIS — Lumberjack shows at the 162nd Cass County Fair showcase five events — obstacle pole race, single buck cross cut saws, stock saw racing, racing hot saws and a “boom run” across four floating logs.
No axe throwing in this venue.
Jamie Fischer divides the crowd at Wednesday’s misty 5:30 show — there are also demonstrations at 7:30 and a kids camp at 3:30 — into cheering sections for a red-shirted lumberjack and a blue-shirted lumberjack.
The blue lumberjack, from Stillwater, Minn., was U.S. rookie of the year four years ago, ranks as one of the top 25 lumberjacks in the country and qualified for his first world championship in Hayward, Wis.
An all-state sprinter in high school, he excels at the boom run, which involves scampering across four logs in cleats while trying to avoid a wet fall.
The red lumberjack, from Lakeland, Minn., has been on the professional circuit for three years after winning the U.S. semi-pro championship. He’s also in the top 25, although lumberjack finished atop a 2012 ranking of the 10 worst jobs and Stillwater discontinued its Lumberjack Days festival.
In the obstacle pole race, the two men start with their hand on a log, grabbing their chainsaw and racing up to the tip to shear off a slice of wood, then dash back.
The single buck cross cut saw harkens back to pioneers clearing wilderness, although the original design was slowed by friction.
Modern racing saws enable lumberjacks to cut more wood faster.
Fischer said the factors determining the winner in chainsaw racing are how they sharpen the chain and how they keep RPMs as high as possible while making the saw work.
“If you push down too hard, the chain will actually stop, so these guys have to figure out where their power range is” with an ear-splitting modified Husqvarna.
“The chain’s going 150,” the blue lumberjack said. A Canadian modifies their saws.
They also turn blocks of wood into artwork. Bears, turtles, fish and pigs they sell take 25 to 45 minutes, but Fischer turns a crude face into a doll-sized chair and gives it as a prize to a Chicago boy who makes a convincing chainsaw imitation.