Friday, April 12, 2013

How To Be... a Lumberjack

First, how not to be a lumberjack:

Second, and I didn't know this, but lumberjacks don't really exist anymore. No, these days, they are called loggers. The term lumberjack, or lumberjill for women, is reserved for woodcutters prior to the introduction of modern logging equipment like chainsaws. These guys used axes and hand saws, were the manliest of men. In fact, they developed their own culture around their profession embracing strength, masculinity, and the confrontation with danger. In fact, even today, logging is still one of the most dangerous professions there is.

100 years ago, the way to become a lumberjack was to be strong and be willing to do the work. Be willing to risk your life, because that's what it was. The work was migratory, so you had to be willing to move around and live in logging camps, which were often as dangerous as the work. The pay was low, and the work was hard, but there was also a strong feeling of brotherhood and tradition among lumberjacks which, I suppose, made it worth it to those willing to do the work. Also, it was a good place to disappear if you needed to do that, provided you could do the work.

The working conditions aren't so bad anymore, but it's a little more difficult to become a logger these days. You can't just walk up and get hired on because you're strong. Logging companies want people with experience, and you can't take classes for this stuff, so the only way to learn the trade is to do the trade. Small, local tree trimming companies are good places to get the necessary experience, and they are often willing to take unskilled workers and train them up: how to use a chainsaw, how to climb a tree (and be able to use a chainsaw while up in the tree), and how to fell trees in difficult areas. City governments can also be places to get hired on to learn this type of work. If you feel logging is the career for you, it's possible to move on to a real logging company once you've learned the ropes.

If your heart really lies in being a lumberjack, a real lumberjack, there are still ways to do that as the lumberjack culture has been kept alive these past 70 odd years through lumberjack competitions and the like to determine who the real men are. These competitions require the traditional skills of a lumberjack: ax throwing (you know, to take down those trees that are trying to escape), ax chopping, individual and team sawing, log rolling (a favorite in cartoons), and pole climbing. The only real problem with this is that if you really want to be able to win these competitions, you have to be willing to make training for them the equivalent of a job, so you better be independently wealthy or still live at home with your parents.


  1. Love you approach to the challenge and you blog.

    Came by from Tales of the Reborn Crafter

  2. Great post today on Lumberjacks. Not the path for me though.

  3. Had to include the Monty Python skit!
    I might be strong enough, but no way I'm hanging out in the woods all day. There's bugs and dirt out there.

  4. A couple of years ago - a local tree comapny with top ratings came to my yard to remove an enormous Sycamore . . it was easily the largest tree in the entire area - It had been hit by lightening (I insist the tree saved my life) - and after a long while, it looked as if it wasn't doing very well . . IF it fell, houses on all sides would be in trouble - so . . sadly - it needed go go.

    Until this moment - it did not occur to me the crew who came - climbing up and down, being extra careful with their work - could be loggers - or Lumberjacks.

    Thank you!
    Happy A to Z!

  5. I love your creativity on your A to Z posts. Way to go.

    I'm having fun doing mine too.

  6. The first thing to pop in my head when I saw the title of your post was the Lumberjack song. I now imagine it'll be stuck in my head the rest of the day.

    My uncle used to be a lumberjack. And he was okay.

  7. They called themselves tree surgeons in NC - we had to hire them after some hurricanes. They really know how to drop a tree safely.


  8. I've never had the dream to be a lumberjack, though it is amusing to watch the log rolling.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  9. I'm intrigued and can't wait for the next letter.



  10. I just adore Monty Python! Hysterical stuff. "suspendies and a bra..."

  11. Interesting read. I hadn't thought about the fact that lumberjacks did not exist anymore and lumberjills made me laugh! :) I like your blog and will be back to look around more. I was sent by Matthew MacNish.
    A to Z April Blogging Challenge

  12. No kidding! It'a a really tough job. My hubby does our trees and it takes skill and planning. WHo knew?!

  13. Great idea for the challenge. Love the the visual of a tree running away and a logger throwing an ax at it. :) Fun post to read. Thanks.

  14. Hahahaha. A live-at-home-with-parents lumberjack. Awesomeness neutralized.

  15. Loved Lumber Jill!

    I always think of Paul Bunyan when I think of lumberjack, then my mind goes straight to the blue ox, so you see how easily I'm led from the topic.

  16. Interesting. I never would have predicted you'd blog about this subject today. It sounds so...manly lol

  17. Ha ha - love the MP clip :-)

    (and now I have that song ear-worming it's way into the rest of my day ;-p)

    As for lumberjacking/logging - when we had our big tree taken down at the front of the house I almost couldn't watch as the guy monkeyed-up the trunk with a chainsaw dangling from his belt.......I'm glad he knew his trade!

    Hope you're enjoying this year's A-Z! ;-)

    SueH I refuse to go quietly!

    Twitter - @Librarymaid

  18. Seriously? A woman lumberjack is called a lumberjill? Or are you pulling my leg on that one?

  19. Logging looks like an incredibly dangerous job. Not something I would want to do every day.

  20. Great post, love 'lumberjill'. My husband is an agricultural contractor and one of his many talents is tree surgery, he loved your post too.
    maggie winter

  21. Great theme! Very original. And the lumber jack song?There is no word for it's extraordinary-ness. Love it. I never knew the word for a woman lumber jack was lumberjill. On the A-Z.

  22. I love watching those lumberjack competitions - they truly are skilled. My husband cuts all the wood for our woodstove which is our only source of heating. We have an electric heating but it's too expensive to use.

  23. Those competitions are ridiculous. Every time I see them on tv, I can't believe people really compete in them.

  24. Hey! I like you A to Z theme Cool stuff!

  25. MaryAnn: Thank you! I'm rather fond of it myself.

    Sheena: Me, either!

    Alex: I did have to. It wouldn't have been complete without it.

    Maggid: It's probably better that you had it taken down. When I was in college, one of my professors had a large tree fall on his house.

    Jeanette: It's always good to have fun with what you're doing.

    M.J.: I'm glad to have stuck a song in your head.

    Jo: Oh, yeah, I've seen the whole tree surgeon thing, too.

    Lee: When I was a kid I saw this movie that included a bit where a guy had a tree fall on him, because he didn't plan where it would fall carefully enough. The tree rolled him into the water and he drowned. I've never wanted to be a tree cutter.

    Fe: The next letter is... "M"!

    ADSL: Always makes me laugh.

    Debra: I have told Matt thanks! I think I knew about lumberjills from a log time ago, but I had forgotten, so it made me laugh when I saw it.

    Pk: I know! You'd think you'd just go out and chop it down, but that's the kind of thing that can get you killed.

    devotedtoquilting: Thank you!

    David: I know! It was a funny thought.

  26. C. Lee: Well, yeah, it's hard not to think of old Paul when you think about tree cutters. In fact, I think of this old cartoon of him felling trees with just one mighty blow. (But the guy with the chain saw still won, I think.)

    Michael: Hey! I'm manly!

    Sue H: It's cool to watch, but I don't think I could bring myself to do that. I think I got over climbing trees when I was around 10.

    Cassie: Seriously. I didn't make it up. Even if I had, I wouldn't tell you. :P
    But I didn't.

    Rebecca: It is. Still. Which was very surprising for me.

    Maggie: Well, awesome! I worked alongside a horticulturist when I was younger, and he made some mighty strange trees.

    Joe: It's such an awesome thing! Everything they did.
    The larch.

    Gwen: I've spent some time cutting wood myself. Back in the day, I enjoyed it.

    S.L.: I know! But, you know, guys will do all kinds of things to prove their manliness. Like throw telephone poles. And jump in freezing water.

    Graciewilde: Thank you!

  27. I didn't know they don't exist anymore either!

  28. Logging seems fun but dangerous. I liked reading this post very much!

  29. Never really gave much thought to lumberjacks, but I love that they developed a culture around their job.

  30. these how to posts are great! my fave so far is HULK! me love him!

  31. Kimberly: Yep, they've gone extinct.

    Gina: To me, it seems too dangerous to be fun.

    Gwen: Yeah, that is pretty cool.

    Tara: That has been a very popular post.

    Tracy: I've never thought of Wolverine that way.

  32. One of my uncles was a lumberjack way back int he day, as was my next door neighbour. Back breaking work, and as you say, it sure didn't pay very well.

    Thank you so much for posting the Monty Python video--I haven't seen that in a long time, and really, a person should watch it at LEAST twice a year!

  33. Love the post. We have loggers here, but I'm not sure what they call themselves. It's fun to watch them, especially when they're swinging with the chainsaws.

  34. Kern: No, it didn't pay very well. It was some of the most grueling work imaginable and paid hardly anything.

    Bethie: Fun to watch them from a distance. I don't like being close enough to have things fall on me.

  35. So how did a lumberjack end up being a shill for Paper towels?

  36. haha! The Lumberjack song! love it.

  37. This is a truly awesome post, and I love the video you included with it. I love the part about the trees that try to run away, haha! Great humor, and also very interesting.

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

  38. Rusty: You're not supposed to know, but that's really just a highly paid model. Paid way more than the lumberjacks.

    Eve: Yep!

    Kristen: Well, I couldn't think of any other good reason for ax throwing being an important skill for a lumberjack, which, evidently, it is.

  39. Oh how I wanted to be a lumber jack for so long. Actually I'm pretty sure I never did. I've had plenty of experience helping with tree trimming while growing up. But I do have great respect for these men. The craziest event I have seen in the competitions is the one where they use the axe, cut into a log, place a plank in that cut and climb up. They repeat the process till they're about 20 feet in the air then cut trough the log on top. Ridiculous!
    We Are Adventure

  40. Elliot: I never did tree trimming, but I did have to split wood.
    And that does sound pretty crazy.