Student group celebrates logging traditions by sawin’ and spittin’

The students are holding the event in order to honor the state’s rich forestry history.

Allison Wickler

The University’s Forestry Club likes having fun the Minnesota way – with sharp saws, double-headed axes and fluffy pancakes.

Today the 100-year-old club will host its 72nd annual Forester’s Day on the hill area near the St. Paul Gymnasium.

The event was scheduled for last week, but the snow pushed the outdoor events back a week.

A pancake breakfast and evening banquet were held last Friday for department students, faculty and staff.

Today’s field events from 2 to 4 p.m. are open to everyone and are probably the most notable part of the day, said forest resources junior and forestry club member Megan Bowdish.

Students can compete in traditional forestry activities, including the two-person bucksaw, speed chop, tobacco spit and matchstick split.

Forest resources senior and club member Adam Fisher said tobacco spit competitors will use real chewing tobacco, to keep the event as traditional as possible.

“It’ll put some hair on your chest,” he said.

A beef jerky alternate also will be offered.

While the events are timed and awards given, Bowdish said the day is more about learning and fun.

“These practices now aren’t a huge part of the profession and occupation today,” she said, “but it’s more of a historical thing to Ö appreciate where Minnesota culture came from.”

According to the Minnesota Historical Society, commercial lumbering began in Minnesota in 1839 with a harvest mostly of pine trees.

The state’s logging industry peaked in the early 1900s, after which time harvests declined and many loggers looked to other regions for work.

Fisher said experiencing the physically demanding activities shows how hard loggers of the past worked.

“That’s why they’re such old, tough guys, you know?” he said.

University alumnus and professional lumberjack Jamie Fischer will be at Forester’s Day helping club members and other students with their skills.

Fischer, a six-time world champion boom runner, in which competitors race across floating logs, said forestry practices are a tradition in his family.

“It totally engulfed my life,” he said. “I love the sport.”

Even though he wasn’t a Forestry Club member, or even in the forestry program, Fischer said he is excited to come back and give students the support he received when he was younger.

Forester’s Day also prepares the club members, many of whom have never tried the events, for the annual Midwestern Foresters’ Conclave in the fall, where college forestry teams from around the Midwest compete in the forestry events.

The University hosted last fall’s conclave at the University’s Cloquet Forestry Center in Cloquet, Minn.