Column: Shuswap lumberjacks uphold region’s logging heritage

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

The large crowd that gathered in Scotch Creek, behind The Hub, on the Canada Day weekend to watch this year’s Timber Day’s events were treated to two extraordinary opening acts.

Jody Evans, who also produces the very successful logger’s show at Grouse Mountain held every day of the week, performed his stunt high up on a spar tree, from which he felled while connected to a zip line. Lumberjack extraordinaire, Carson Bischoff “survived” when the outhouse “blew up!”

The crowd loved the opening show and was entranced by all the competition events that followed.

Now a tradition nearly four decades old, the North Shuswap Timber Days is one of a series of competitions across North America and the world, with events that pay homage to logging heritage when the tools were axes and crosscut saws. While many of the competitors are loggers, the sport is open to all. There are three categories for each event; novice for the beginners, intermediate for those who have had three wins in the novice category, and open for those who have had three wins in the intermediate category.

One of the most exciting events is the springboard, where the contestant has to chop a notch in a pole, insert a springboard that he climbs up to chop another notch until he gets to the top where he has to chop through the attached pole. You can still find old cedar stumps in Seymour Arm and elsewhere that have slots from the springboards used in the old days to fell trees in order to avoid the massive flared butts.

Read more: In photos and video: Lumberjacks get chopping at Shuswap competition

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Read more: Column: Celebrating 50 years of Shuswap Passion

The world champion for the springboard event, Mitch Hewitt, who lives in Scotch Creek, had a lengthy handicap before he could begin and yet he still won the contest. Hewitt travels to Sidney, Australia for the world competition. He married into the North Shuswap legendary pioneer family, the Bischoffs, who are the founders and the mainstays of the Timber Days Society which hosts the event every two years. Local businesses sponsor the show, providing cash prizes for the winners.

It takes brute strength and raw talent to perform well at logger’s sports according to Karl Bischoff, who began his career in 1977 at a competition in Salmon Arm. His favourite events include the wood chop, where the timberjack stands on the log secured in a steel holder while he chops through it; the cross-cut (or “misery whip” as the old-timers called it) where the sawyer is timed as they cut off a slice; and noisy “hot saw” where competitors use souped-up power saws to cut off two slices, down and up.

Just as there are fewer loggers now in the woods, given the advances in high-tech logging equipment, there are fewer people involved in logger’s sports. However, more women are taking up the sport and it was cool to see the gals sweating it up with the crosscut saws at Timber Days. Also, they had to change the name of the boy’s chop, as there was one very energetic girl swinging the axe.

No doubt, the North Shuswap Timber Days will go on thrilling audience for many years to come.


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