....Ontario is ready – for Loggers
....Yesterday I stood on the banks of the
Ottawa river at Pembrooke and watched two champion log birlers from
B.C. Jube Wickheim and Owen Carney thrill a crowd of a thousand people
with their skill of footwork as they tried to roll their opponent into
that historic river. I had the feeling that the old time river drivers
of a hundred years ago were looking down from the heavens and saying
– “Look at them darn fools, doin that fer fun – when
we used to make our beans and bacon working on that spot.” There
had to be a feeling like that because what Jube and Owen were doing
to show off the skills of balance and precision, the old times of J.R.
Booth Timber Co. and Ebenezer Eddy’s Co. did all day long on the
great river drives of the turn of the century.
....Today the river is quiet of log drives
– no longer are the slim red and white pine logs, or the square
hewn timbers to be seen floating down river to the pulp and saw mills
of the past. Automation came to this beautiful Ottawa valley like it
has elsewhere in Canada, in the form of power saws – trucks and
skidders. But the heritage lives on, and the old timers I have spoken
to back here are quick to tell you of the great old days. For this was
logging country long before B.C. got into business, and the land was
full of husky men who could make an ox and a hand saw sing into the
vast forest around this Ontario.
....I’m here in Ontario with five
cham-pion B.C. loggers – the two named above and Ron Hartill,
Dick Henling and the ever jovial Power Saw Pete Holmquist. We are on
a tour of Ontario’s forest industry to show the folks here the
Logging Sports of axe throwing, hand-bucking, power-saw chair carving,
tree climbing, chopping and log birling. And I can tell you the crowds
love it. We will have put on such demonstrations in Toronto’s
On-tario Place, Harcourt, Pembrooke,
Hearst and Thunder Bay. We are joined by twenty students from the faculties
of forestry and teaching from Victoria college, B.C.L.F., Simon Fraser
and the University of B.C. Our students take a bit different route than
the loggers, viewing an intensive itinerary of logging, research, mills
and forest centers through-out Ontario – and we rendez-vous together
three times over the nine day trip.
....All this was put together by a Festival
of forestry Committee in Ottawa. With the backing of the Jack Davis’s
Federal Forestry Department our group will learn of Ontario’s vast
forest industry and our loggers will hope to encourage the newly founded
Ontario Loggers Sports Association to reach back into their heritage to
show their public and the people of Canada – the skills of a logger.
....We have been guided – expertly
– by the Ontario Forest Accident Prevention Association and their
staff into the areas likely to want to organize Loggers Sports –
and by what our group has seen in five years time we’ll have National
....And why not! What better way to show
young people who might be interested in a forest career. Or to show our
public the type of men that work in those forests. This is a mighty industry
in Canada – and it needs showing and telling about. The art of river
driving is gone from these parts – where you might say it was invented.
The pulling of the old hand fiddle saw is gone and the expertise of axemanship
is in the past. But these Ontario forestry people look to the sport as
a means of keeping the past in sight – and you can never look ahead
– unless you remember the past.
....This Ottawa Valley has to be one of Canada’s
great sights. The sheer beauty of the rolling hills of hardwoods and softwoods
can only remind one that this country is a breadbasket of trees. The people
are hospitable wherever you go and our loggers from B.C. are besieged
with questions about our big trees of the
....I watched our five loggers and our
invaluable guide-friends Earl Craig of the Ontario Forest Accident Preven-tion
Association and Art Barnes of Omark Industries set up one of the sports
demonstration shows on the banks of the Matagami River one evening.
A spar pole had been erected for speed climber Owen Carney by a local
committee. It was a nice grassy area in the heart of this great timber
and mining town and the crew hustled to get the chopping blocks in place
– the birling log down to the river and the axe targets stood
....We have three vehicles to travel in,
Earl’s car, Art’s station wagon and Jube’s one ton
pickup loaded with saws wood-boards and targets. It takes the men about
two hours to set up the show – while Owen is trimming bark and
knots off the spar. Soon all is ready and the local sound truck appears
and the crowd starts to fill into the area. Six thousand people –
women kids old-timers, loggers, miners, and assorted dogs soon filled
the area and even lined the nearby bridge and the opposite side of the
....At seven in the evening – with
a warm night the show went on – “Ladies and gentlemen –
here are the skills of a logger – from the B.C. woods let me present
to you – “ The crowd awed when Dick Henling hit the bulls
eye at the axe throwing contest. They hollered for Pete to beat Ron
in the stand up chop – they yelled when Carney came, spurs a flying,
down the seventy foot spar tree and they cheered when Jube and Owen
gave them a splashing, dancing, log birl they’ll never forget.
....Reporters were there – T.V. cameras
took it all in, and Mayor Leo Del Villano shook hands with all the contestants.
Owen and Ron carved a little chair out of a standing block of wood with
their power saws and presented them to a little girl in the crowd and
to Mayor Leo.