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Jack of the TV trade

8/28/2010

SALEM, Ore. -- Lumberjacking has put Wade Stewart, 38, in the spotlight a number of times.
Starting the disciplines at age 3 in his home of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, he got good enough by 9 that he was hailed as the "world's youngest lumberjack" when he appeared on "That's Incredible!" an ABC show featuring, well, incredible stuff.

As just a little guy, he went up against Cathy Lee Crosby and Fran Tarkenton in the log roll and dispatched both, despite the fact that "they were hanging onto ropes."

The show brought the Stewarts to Hollywood for five days, a "nice family vacation," and did the show shoot in one day.

If that's not enough, the seven-time Ironjack champion who's competing in the speed climb this week, made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2001. Traveling to New York and visiting the Ed Sullivan Theater, Stewart wowed Letterman's audience with a pole climb.

"It was just a tremendous experience," he said. "I didn't realize how many people watched that show. I thought it was too late at night, but when I got home people kept telling me they saw me."

Stewart, who said the appearances have helped his tree service business, is a mere sapling compared to some of the larger woodmen, but his prowess has taken him to the Ironjack crowns. Those events include the speed climb, boom run, single buck saw, standing block, obstacle pole race and axe throw.

"You don't have to win one event," he said. "I've got a lot of experience and I make less mistakes and get less penalties."

Sasquatch sighting

Sasquatch made an appearance at the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS venue at the Oregon State Fair courtesy of competitor Branden Sirguy.

A forester for a northwest Washington timber company, Sirguy was commissioned to find some trees for the springboard chop. What he found had thick, hairy coats of moss.

"Don Quigley was teasing me about finding Sasquatch trees," Sirguy said. "Rub trees, claiming that the Sasquatch scratch their backs on them."

Taken from close to the misty coast where Bigfoot are suspected to thrive, the red alder trees served Quigley well as he sets up the 9-foot sections for competitors to cut their pockets and chop a white pine log secured atop them.

"They told me they like to find poles that are local to the region," Sirguy said. "Red alder is a dominant tree species here up and down the coast. These came from a half mile off the coast of Washington state. A very wet climate, a lot of fog, a perfect place for moss to grow."

However, not many actually got to see the thick growths.

"We peel the bark off so we don't ruin our axes on the bark," Sirguy said. "You don't want any dirt or coarse fibers that could put a ding in that razor's edge."

A rare breed indeed

Pro competitor David Moses, 45, says he didn't know that he was a rare breed until his father told him he was among the few full-blooded Indians left in America.

Moses' father, who has competed in lumberjack events since 1972, is from the Puyallup tribe in western Washington, and his mother is of the Cowichan tribe from near Duncan, B.C.

"There's not that many full-blooded Indians left," Moses said.

Moses was involved in other sports before following his father's footsteps at age 26.

"He told me I had to be dedicated or he wouldn't teach me," he said, acknowledging that his dad, 66-year-old David Moses Sr., is a great teacher because he still competes.

Moses honors his heritage with ceremonies, and his friends tell him they admire that he and his family "celebrate both life and death."

Too big to miss

The choppers, sawyers, runners and climbers are sharing the stages at the Oregon State Fair with the likes of headliner ZZ Top. We've dug further, past the standard carnival, rides and fair food, to find the more unusual stuff listed on the schedule of events.

The Let's Pretend Circus in the Familyville Lil' Big Top makes one wonder just exactly what kind of pretending there might be — "OK, kids, imagine there's an elephant right there."

You can certainly imagine what's coming at the Marc Savard Comedy Hypnotist show; some poor sap made to strut and cluck like a chicken. There's no truth that Savard supplies unknowing fair-goers for the Jest in Time Circus of Fools, but it wouldn't be a stretch.

Near the booth selling cookies and milk, there will be a Milk Moustache Contest that Oreo lovers won't want to miss.

A blast from the past will include the Old-time Butter Making Contest and Dr. Atomic's Medicine Show and the Old-Fashion Corn Shucking.

Other interestingly named events are the Kids Dress a Potato and the Hermiston Watermelon Seed-Spitting Contest. Others just make you wonder what it will be, like the Hollywood Frogs with Superhero Skills.