Definitions

logs out

Lumberjack

[luhm-ber-jak]

A lumberjack or logger is a man who harvests lumber. The term lumberjack is somewhat archaic, having been mostly replaced by logger. When lumberjack is used, it usually refers to a logger from an earlier time before the advent of chainsaws, feller-bunchers and other modern logging equipment. Other terms for the occupation include woodcutter, and the colloquial term woodhick (Pennsylvania, US).

The term "lumberjill" has been known for a woman who does this work, for example in Britain during World War II.

History

Lumberjacks worked in lumber camps and often lived a migratory life, following timber harvesting jobs as they opened. They also had to take a long time to move the logs from place to place, because of low technology. Being a lumberjack was seasonal work. Lumberjacks were exclusively men. They usually lived in bunkhouses or tents. Common equipment included the axe and crosscut saw. Lumberjacks could be found wherever there were vast forests to be harvested and a demand for wood, most likely in Scandinavia, Canada, and northern parts of the United States. In the U.S., many lumberjacks were of Scandinavian or Finnish ancestry, continuing the occupation of their parents and grandparents. American lumberjacks were first centered in northeastern states such as Maine and then followed the general westward migration on the continent to the Upper Midwest, and finally the Pacific Northwest. Stewart Holbrook documented the rise and eventual westward migration of the classic American lumberjack in his first book, Holy Old Mackinaw: A Natural History of the American Lumberjack, and often wrote colorfully about lumberjacks in his subsequent books, romanticizing them as hard-drinking, hard-working men. Logging camps were slowly phased out between World War II and the early 1960s as crews could by then be transported to remote logging sites in motor vehicles.

The division of labor in lumber camps led to several specialized jobs on logging crews - such as whistle punk, chaser, and high climber. The whistle punk's job was to sound a whistle as a signal to the yarder operator controlling the movement of logs and act as a safety lookout, and a good whistle punk had to be alert and think fast as the safety of the others depended on him. The high climber (also known as a tree topper) used iron climbing hooks and rope to ascend a tall tree in the landing area of the logging site, where he would chop off limbs as he climbed, chop off the top of the tree, and finally attach pulleys and rigging to the tree so it could be used as a spar so logs could be skidded into the landing. High climbers and whistle punks were both phased out in the 1960s to early 1970s when portable steel towers replaced spar trees and radio equipment replaced steam whistles for communication. The chokersetters attached steel cables (or chokers) to downed logs so they could be dragged into the landing by the yarder. The chasers removed the chokers once the logs were at the landing. Chokersetters and chasers were often entry-level positions on logging crews, with more experienced loggers seeking to move up to more skill-intensive positions such as yarder operator and high climber, or supervisory positions such as hooktender. Despite the common perception that all loggers cut trees, the actual felling and bucking of trees were also specialized job positions done by fallers and buckers. Fallers and buckers were once two separate job titles but are now combined.

During the era before modern diesel or gasoline powered equipment, what machinery existed was steam-powered, and animal- or steam-powered skidders could be used to haul harvested logs to nearby railroads for shipment to sawmills. Horse driven logging wheels was a means used for moving logs out of the woods. Another way for transporting logs to sawmills was to float them down a body of water or a specially-constructed log flume. The art of log rolling - staying on top of a floating log while "rolling" the log by walking - was another skill much in demand among lumberjacks. Spiked boots known as "caulks" or "corks" were used for log rolling and often worn by lumberjacks as their regular footwear.

The term "skid row", which today means a poor city neighborhood frequented by homeless people, originated in a way in which harvested logs were once transported. Logs could be "skidded" down hills or along a corduroy road, and one such street in Seattle was named Skid Road. This street later became frequented by people down on their luck, and both the name and its meaning morphed into the modern term.

Lumberjacks, especially in the northwestern United States and western Canada, incorporated many terms from the Chinook Jargon into their language including such terms as "skookum" (excellent or impressive), "muckeymuck" (executives or higher-ups), and "hooch" (liquor) which are still familiar today. Lumber camps were the sites of many militant labor disputes and strikes during unionization efforts in the early 20th century.

The modern logger

Modern technology has changed the job of the modern logger considerably. Although the basic task of harvesting trees is still the same, the machinery and tasks are no longer the same. Many of the old job specialties on logging crews are now obsolete.

Chainsaws, harvesters, and feller bunchers are now used to cut or fell trees. The tree is turned into logs by removing the limbs (delimbing) and cutting it into logs of optimal length (bucking). The felled tree or logs are moved from the stump to the landing. Ground vehicles such as a skidder or forwarder can pull, carry, or shovel the logs. Cable systems "cars" can pull logs to the landing. Logs can also be flown to the landing by helicopter. Logs are commonly transported to the sawmill using trucks. Harvesting methods may include clearcutting or selective cutting. Concerns over ecology have led to controversy about modern logging practices. In certain areas of forest loggers re-plant their crop for future generations.

A recent Wall Street Journal survey on the best jobs in the United States ended by listing being a logger as the "worst" 3D's job , citing "work instability, poor income and pure danger." A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of America's most dangerous jobs put loggers at the top of the list for 2004.

Loggersports

The modern lumberjack can be found in our competitive culture, originally started as a competition in the old lumber camps to see who the best lumberjack was. Today these competitions are used to acknowledge the rich history forestry and logging and keep traditions alive. This is reflected in the events at these competitions. With the most notable event being the Lumberjack World Championship, held in Hayward, Wisconsin. The competition began in 1960 and is now one of the largest spectator gathers of the sport bringing in over 12,000 on an annual basis. STIHL Timbersports Series, is another large event that has helped to bring worldwide popularity due to the association with ESPN, which airs the competition as apart of there Outdoor Games. What began as a small telecast from one universal camera has turned into a spectacle. Many colleges have woodsmen teams or forestry clubs, which compete regionally, nationally, and internationally. Following in their own footsteps STIHL introduced the STIHL Timbersports Collegiate Series Events, which airs on ESPN's, ESPNU. The collegiate series involves over 50 schools across the country. There are also lumberjack shows which tour the United States, demonstrating these old time lumber practices to the general public. Loggers’ rodeos are also held in some towns which demonstrate these events to the public.

The Collegiate series is designed to bring awareness of the sport to college campus' with incentives for the students. STIHL gives sponsorship to each host school of a regional conclave, hands out prizes consisting of: three MS 440 Magnum chain saws, four Competition Racing Axes and one J.P. Mercier Single Buck Saw.. They provide demonstrations, and the winner of the each conclave gets a bid to the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Championships. With the top rated participants in each event receiving $1000 given to their school to be used for scholarship or any other school related funds, vouchers to help with the purchase of profession competition gear and an opportunity to participate in STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series, against the top professionals in the world.

The Lumberjack World Championships have been held annually in Hayward, Wisconsin since 1960. Over twelve thousand visitors come to this small northern Wisconsin town each year in late July to watch men and women compete in 21 different events, including log rolling, chopping, timed hot (power) saw and buck saw cutting, and pole climbing.

In popular culture

In popular culture the cliché of a lumberjack is a strong, burly, usually bearded man who likes to brave the natural environment. He is depicted wearing suspenders, a long-sleeved plaid flannel shirt, and heavy boots. He is often depicted as being very hungry and eating a large stack of flapjacks or pancakes. He works by cutting down trees with either an axe or with the help of another lumberjack, a crosscut saw, as opposed to the modern chainsaw.

The most famous depiction of a lumberjack in folklore is Paul Bunyan. Several towns claim to have been the home of Paul Bunyan and have statues of Bunyan and his ox "Babe" in the town.

Music

In Monty Python, a popular skit is "The Lumberjack Song" known for its refrain "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay / I sleep all night and I work all day".

Johnny Cash recorded a song about lumberjacks titled "Lumberjack", which appeared on the Ride This Train album.

"The Lumberjack" is a song by Jackyl.

Books and films

The 2003 book Blackwater Ben by William Durbin is about a boy who gets to live with his father as a cook in a lumberjack camp.

Sometimes a Great Notion—a 1964 novel adapted for a 1971 movie—is about a family of lumberjacks in Oregon.

Maddox's book The Alphabet of Manliness lists the lumberjack as one of 26 examples of the pinnacle of manliness.

The 1954 movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a classic film musical about seven lumberjack brothers who, in the spirit of the Roman story of the The Rape of the Sabine Women, decide to kidnap brides for themselves from the neighboring town. It contains one of the best dancing scenes in film history, the barn raising dance.

Canadian artist William Kurelek wrote and illustrated a book called Lumberjack (1974) [ISBN 0-88776-378-2] about his days working in a logging camp.

Professional wrestling

In professional wrestling, a lumberjack match is a contest between two or more wrestlers where the outside of the ring area is surrounded by other grapplers. These performers are supposed to forcibly return to inside the ring wrestlers that leave the mat.

School mascots

The lumberjack is the mascot of many schools and universities including:

References

  • Griffiths, Bus. Now You're Logging, Harbour Publishing, 1978.
  • Holbrook, Stewart H. Holy Old Mackinaw: A Natural History of the American Lumberjack, 1938.
  • Lemonds, James. Deadfall: Generations of Logging in the Pacific Northwest. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press, 2001.
  • Roberge, Earl. Timber Country. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1973.

See also

External links

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