By Ken Boness
By virtue of how this planet revolves, we humans expect stars to initially come into view in the east. Not all stars follow that pattern, however, some — Walt Page and Nate Hodges, in particular — have come up in the west. From California. And these two stars live only 28 miles apart; Page in Tollhouse and Hodges in North Fork.
Lumberjack competitors, both male and female, come from all walks of life. The range of vocations extends from housewives to schoolteachers, to firefighters. A few make their living with wood in one way or another, like Hodges and Page.
The story of a piece of wood begins in the forest and ends with whatever application that particular wood fiber is destined to serve. Precious few lumberjack competitors actually make their living as loggers, filling a role in getting trees started on their journey. Walt Page is one of those few as he has settled into a career as a contract feller in the forests of Central California. Nate Hodges is on the other end of the spectrum. As a home builder, he installs wood — sills, joists, studs, rafters, sheathing, trim, doors — where they will likely remain for decades; perhaps a century or more. As Mr. Page gets the wooden ball rolling, so to speak, I’ll reveal his story first.
Page Makes His Mark
Page began competing, as many do, while attending college. Studying with majors in forestry and natural resources at Cal Poly, the various sawing and chopping disciplines seemed ideally suited to him. Equally important were his attributes: hand-eye coordination, muscle tone, the ability to adjust stroke and swing mid-event, and no fear of hard work, all of which enabled Page to move up through the competition ranks. And move up he has.
Traveling from his home in Tollhouse to compete in Stihl Timbersports U.S. Championship events in late July, Page finished 3rd out of the ten entrants in Men’s Professional Qualifier Pool B. Page scored very high in two events: standing block (1st place) and springboard (2nd place). He also had solid performances in the other events. Advancing to face the best of the best, Page placed 5th, putting him in the top half of that elite field.
“The best of the best” didn’t go away as Page competed for three days the following weekend at the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wisconsin. When the sawdust and chips stopped flying on that first Saturday night in August, Page was ranked 3rd in springboard and 6th in standing chop. Impressive times in these and other events on earlier days lifted Page to 9th place overall out of 61 competitors.
Hodges Shoots for the Stars
Unlike Page, Nate Hodges didn’t leave home to find lumberjack competitions elsewhere. Rather, the lumberjack competition came to his hometown of North Fork, California. Always an outdoor enthusiast, Hodges readily took to making little pieces of wood out of big ones. Pushed by competitors at the annual North Fork Loggers Jamboree, Hodges soon displayed a knack for pushing back by completing the cuts in impressive times. Onward to the big stage.
At the same Stihl Timbersports U. S. Championships where Page was competing, Hodges won 1st place in Pool A. Page registered the best times in springboard, standing block, and hot saw events. A 2nd place finish in underhand bolstered his score and guaranteed a slot in the final round. There he finished just one point behind the 2019 Timbersports U.S. Champion, Cassidy Scheer.
Hodges also traveled north to Hayward, bringing with him his style of chopping. While some axmen and women strike a graceful pose, Hodges is all about punishing the wood that would dare to stand before him or lie under his feet. He competed in the championship round in hot saw, standing chop, and single buck, outright winning that last event. Steady performances throughout three days of competition placed Hodges 5th in the overall ranking at the Lumberjack World Championships.
The year 2020 is likely to see more of these two Californian stars who have achieved elevated status in lumberjack sports. Competitors beware.
ON THE COVER
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