Yes, there is such a thing as logger sports. It is a a fun, festival style competition, usually found in small logging towns that depend on the foresty industry for the majority of their economy. The sport draws professional exhibitors from around Canada and other countries such as Germany and Australia. Local loggers also compete, but mostly at a non-professional level. Obstacle courses, climbing trees, and a small square pond sit in the centre of a large, immaculately groomed grass field, surrounded in wooden bleachers gone gray with age. This energy packed competition includes tree climbing, axe throwing, birling, tree topping or falling and various log chopping and sawing events, all requiring enormous strength, balance and coordination.
I should mention that this sport is actually quite fun to watch. Most are timed events involving a high level of danger, deafening power equipment, and plenty of fast action. My personal favorite is the tree climb, where a professional can scale up and down an eighty foot tree in 30 seconds! Birling (or log rolling) is also a lot of fun to watch. Two men stand at either end of a log, 15 inches inches in diameter, floating in square pond of water. Each tries to unbalance the other by spinning the log back and forth in a blur of lightening fast feet. The spinning log churns up white water and the birlers use their hands and spiked shoes to kick at the water and splash their competitors in an attempt to distract one and other. It is all very dramatic. Inevitability one or both are sent flying off and into the pond, to emerge with their t-shirts and pants plastered to their muscly chest, arms, and backsides..... I digress.
At the time, I hadn't much interested in sport itself. To a teenage girl with nothing but boys on her mind, Loggers Sports was nothing but a smorgasbord of testosterone laden men. Being a smarter than average bear, I volunteered to work on the grounds and as such, was able to go behind the scenes, and get up close and personal with the stars of the show....
I had volunteered at a booth, located on the grounds, that raises money for charity by selling beef on a bun. Every year massive chunks of beef would be roasted over a huge open spit, sliced, and doused in gravy. The resulting sandwich is a time honored and favorite tradition of the logger sports weekend. I had been working the booth for a few years previously and had always loved arriving early in the morning to start the spit fire, serve the loggers breakfast and watch the grounds come to life. In the years previous, I had been an awkward, pudgy, pimple faced teen that was considered more of a pet than an object of interest to any of the younger staff or competitors. This year was different. I had lost the 50 or so pounds that I had found during puberty and my baby faced had melted away to that of a young womans. I hadn't quite come to terms with my new found form or the resulting interest it had inspired from the boys at my high school. I doubt any of the returning crew recognized me as the pudgy girl from the year before and I hadn't quite accepted it myself yet, either.
One night, long after the show had ended, my boss asked me to do one last thing on my way home. I was to deliver two huge roasts of beef to the grounds crew and exhibitors for their dinner. I was instructed to carry the meat from our booth, across the exhibition field, and to the infamous "Loggers Barn" where the men would congregate to drink and share stories after the days activities. My boss could hardly have known how terror stricken I was at the prospect of such a simple assignment. He didn't know what it was to be an insecure sixteen year old girl who would scarcely consider going to the bathroom without a entourage, let alone walk into a room full of unknown adult men, alone. The thought alone was enough to make my knees weak and send my heart pounding.
I know now, looking back, that I was pretty, young and full of verve, with long dark brown hair, big blue eyes and and a curvy body that exuded the unique countenance of a woman freshly bloomed. All I knew at the time was that I had woken up that morning with a pimple on my forehead the size of Vesuvius, and equally as volatile looking. I desperately racked my brain for any tangible excuse to not go. Before I could muster a reply, the roasts where thrust into my arms and I was being told who, and only who, I was suppose to give the meat too. Somehow I managed to balance the two huge barons of beef, that were braced on the length of my forearm, across the grounds to the Loggers Barn without taking a single breath.
I can still distinctly remember the few brief and horrifying moments I spent in that barn. A flood of sounds and smells hit me as I walked through the door . I stopped dead in my tracks. The rooms smelled of sweat, beer, and sawdust and it was terribly loud, as 30 or so men seemed to shout and talk over one and other. I was the only female in sight. While I did remember that I was only suppose to hand over the roasts to a specific person, at that moment I couldn't remember my own name, let alone who it was that I was suppose to give them to. I just stood there, stock still in the middle of the doorway with a huge roast beef in either arm and deer in the headlights look in my eye. My breath caught in my throat and felt my cheeks blaze with a deep blush. A group of men, closest to the door, stopped talking too stare at me. Within a moment, every eye in the barn was pointed in my direction and all had stopped talking. "I have meat for....." was all that got out of my mouth before the first comment was shouted out.
It does not take much imagination to figure out how half a simple sentence like that would be perceived in a room full of heavily inebriated chauvinists. One man shouted a comment, then another and the room erupted with laughter, cat calls and shouts. "I mean, I have beef for...." I tried again and failed. I could have died right then and there, on the spot. I gave up, tuned on my heel and walked out of the room. One man stood up and followed me outside. My face was beet red. My ears, ringing. "I think that meat's for me?" he said, with only a half an grin, his implication, clear. I didn't care who he was, I thrust the roasts into his hands and fled, vowing to never show my face at Loggers Sports again.
I didn't want to go back the grounds but my sense of obligation to the charity overcame my reserve. Of course, the next day, most of the men from the night before came by to get a burger, poke fun and a few even came by to ask me out. The man that I had handed the beef too caught me eye and before the weekend was through I had taken my first ride in a big jacked up truck. In passing, I also discovered a genre that would come to define the next few years of my life. By the end of that summer I had developed a taste for country music, the throaty sound of Flowmasters, and the hum of Super-Swampers on pavement. I traded in my English saddle for a Western model and gave up jumping for cattle penning. My vocabulary was peppered with redneck lingo like "git" and "y'all" and Alan Jackson's "She's Gone Country" was my theme song. For the next few years I embraced the redneck culture of the small town where I was born. I rode the back country, wore a belt buckle and dreamed of running barrels. It was a lifestyle that embraced a freedom of spirit, youth and rebellion that spoke to me at the time, and still does, in part. I ride beautiful, well bred reining horses in a saddle that cost more than my first horse but I wont give up the nasty, beaten up ol'Ropers that I've had since high school. I have fed the horses in an evening dress and high heels and gone to a gala with duck tape holding my earring on....so I can hardly claim to be cured. I still love to ride a dirt road in an old pick up but lately my thoughts stray towards the lack of airbags and crumple zones. But then, the roar of powerful engine can still bring the color to my cheeks. Perhaps there really is something to be said for that old expression, "you can take the girl out of the honky tonk, but you cant take the honky tonk out of the girl."