Blackwood – He’s a lumberjack and he’s ok – the world of competitive wood chopping

It’s the age old battle of man verses wood played out every Easter Saturday at the Blackwood Sports Ground.
I’ve always thought of wood chopping as the chore that no one likes. That’s why most people have gas or electric heating.  But some people do this as a hobby or more aptly a competitive sport. They don’t refer to themselves lumberjacks though, despite the catchy tune they could sing while chopping if they did, but rather as ‘axemen’. As tough as that name sounds I must admit to a little disappointment.
Chopping wood seems simple enough. Find a log and swing an axe at it. Repeat until log is in two pieces.  This, however, did not seem to be the technique the axemen at Blackwood were using when facing up against their enemy.  For the Standing Block competition (where a log is held up vertically in a brace) the axemen were measuring the circumference of their log, marking out in chalk their intended axe strokes and putting in many practice swings before the air horn was blown to signal the start of the heat.
Logs with chalk markings
The axemen also dressed for the occasion in team uniforms.  Now if I was going to compete in a sport that closely resembled manual labour (this would never happen but bear with me) I wouldn’t choose white pants as the common theme for all team uniforms. Pants that closely resemble those worn by lawn bowlers when competing. But white pants together with a logoed singlet or polo shirt was what every axeman wore. Maybe wood chopping and lawn bowls go together in the same way the footy and cricket do as winter and summer sports and this was a nifty way to save on the cost of uniforms.
Not only are these axemen serious about chopping wood, the spectators are serious about watching them.  Many people turned up early, camp chair in hand, staked out prime positions at the fence and settled in for a day of determined chopping.    And determined the axemen were.  In each heat they did not give up on splitting their log in two even when someone else had won the round.
It appears that some people really do like chopping wood.  I’d like to invite them all on my next camping trip.

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