If you’ve read the bio on my “About” page, you know that I describe myself as a “writer, mad scientist, and freelance zombie apocalypse preparedness consultant.” Some of these things are not 100% exactly true. They aren’t lies persay. They are more like fictions. I am, after all, a writer. But there is one awesomely improbably job description that I could add which would be totally true: lumberjack hobbyist.
Specifically I’m referring to my annual participation in the Pensacola Junior College Lumberjack Festival.
I got my start attending the lumberjack festival when I was somewhere around ten years old. My dad saw a sign up in front of the college and said, “Hey there’s some kind of lumberjack thing going on down at PJC. You want to go?” So we went.
It was cool. There were guys throwing axes, guys throwing knives, guys climbing poles, guys cutting down poles (not at the same time though). It was about as awesome as it could be.
But the real life changing moment happened on the way home when dad said, “You know that ax throwing stuff didn’t look so hard. They leave that target up all year round. We should go down some afternoon and give it a shot.”
And to make a long story short, we did. From time to time when we had a free afternoon dad and I would lug his big chopping ax down through the college campus, ignoring all the twenty-something students giving us weird looks and we would practice.
I wasn’t very good at it, mostly because hey, it was three-foot-long chopping ax, and I was twelve at the time. But I did try. I got frustrated when I failed, but I tried.
But dad. Dad had the stuff man. It took him a while to get the hang of it, but by the time the lumberjack festival rolled around next year he was ready. I still remember the moment when he walked in with that big single-bit ax and went to sign up for the ax throw. The administrator of the event looked at him and said, “You’re going to throw that?”
Dad said, “Sure, why not?”
“Well, for one thing it’s only got the one blade,” the guy said. “And for another thing it’s huge.”
“Is there a rule against that?” Dad asked.
“No rule. Just…no one’s ever used and ax like that before.”
Dad just smiled and said, “Well there’s a first time for everything.”
And he took his monster of an ax down and won the whole shebang. I mean he just plastered the rest of those guys with their fancy double-bladed throwing axes. Oh, and did I mention he did it all while throwing underhand?
It was possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
So we kept practicing. We went back the next year, and the next one and the next one after that, and somewhere along the line we turned the thing into a family tradition. Dad didn’t win the ax throw every year, but he started branching out into other events and he found out he was pretty good at some of them too.
Along the way, I got a little bigger, and a little more confident with the ax, and eventually I beat my dad out and won a blue ribbon in the ax throw for myself.
And today I’m going to try to do it again. By the time you read this, I’ll probably be out there in the sun with my Helbotica t-shirt on, working my way through the various lumberjack events.
I don’t know how I’ll do on most of them, but I’ve been practicing quite a bit on the ax throw recently. Possibly a bit too much.
So if you’re in the vicinity of Milton, Florida, and you want to see some manly men throwing some axly axes, then swing by Pensacola
Junior State College. Who knows? You may just find yourself with a new family tradition.
By the by, I’ll be tweeting about the event throughout the day, so if you do the Twitter thing give me a follow at @Albert_Berg and check that out.