Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Witz Pickz: Lumberjack Jamboree (Fourth of July Weekend Party 2 of 2)

North Fork, California. Home of The Buck Horn Restaurant and Lounge, Mr. Bob's Therapeutic Massage (and probably child pornography ring), and, for one magical weekend every year, The Annual North Fork Lumberjack Jamboree. On Sunday, I was able, for a brief instant, to become a part of this burly world. Here's a sensory explanation of how it was:


What if that's all I gave you? What if I got all Kerouac on you and then just peaced? Here's what went down:

The Scene:
We arrived on Sunday at the North Fork Rec Center not knowing what to expect, six tourists in a world where people clearly had spent a little bit of time. As we approached the jamboree, we saw the spread-- events were going on in a rectangular coral with an announcer's booth and old wooden benches set up stadium style. At the top of a slight hill, concession stands were set up, all of which shocking for different reasons.

Food is very telling, and this is no different at a Lumberjack Jamboree. On the one hand, there was thai food, which as one of four food options, was entirely unexpected. Getting the thai food would be like going to a steakhouse and ordering the vegetarian sandwhich (which I've done, and would NOT recommend it). On the other hand, was the confusing yet intriguing "Indian Tacos--" feathers, not dots, which were being sold behind a tiny shack that looked like it was out of Kid Nation. After a little exploration, we learned that Indian Tacos are much like regular tacos, only they're served in a fried dough shell as opposed to regular taco shells-- AKA brilliance! For anybody who thought that Native Americans gave a fuck, there's proof to the contrary. The most epitomizing food, however, was the vegetarian platter. The veggie platter was mushrooms, zucchini, and onions-- oh, but they're ALL DEEP FRIED! I saw many a person putting down a stack of fried veggies and man did it look good.

You see, the Lumberjack Jamboree is like those veggies. Wholesome and good for you, but definitely deep fried and greasy. It was extremely stereotypical and rednecky, but at the same time, people were more courteous than I'd seen in a while.

The Queen:
A huge error in judgement led us to miss The Woodchopper's Ball and Queen Coronation Ceremony the night before. The problem was that it was very difficult to get any documentation on the subject, and aside from going camping, there was the issue of the apostrophe. Was it The WoodchopperS ball, as in, lots of wood choppers and us too? Or was it The Woodchopper's Ball, as in, a ball for those who chop wood? We clearly didn't want to get our ass kicked by pretending to be something we aren't. Anyway, at the ball, there were apparently numerous fights (which would be like watching hippos fight) and the Queen was coronated. The four contestants had to be single women without children, which is tougher to find than you'd think, and it meant they were about 16 years old. True to form, there were very few specifications that had to be met, and I'm pretty sure whoever sold the most tickets to the event on Sunday won the crown. After some anticipation, we were introduced to the Queen on Sunday, as she made her way from the announcer's booth to the platform. She had classied herself up in a pink tank top, some tight short shorts, and flip-flops, and rocked some dark sunglasses and prized tiara alongside the other mark of North Fork royalty-- a big gulp cup. She waved to the crowd and everyone went wild, us included. Any Queen with a tattoo is fine by me.

The Lumberjacks:
At first sighting, all you can think when you see the plethora of Lumberjacks is "that's a whole lot of burly." As you adjust, you realize that most lumberjacks are of a certain physique-- big chested and with a pronounced gut. Stout is the word that comes to mind. We started picking out favorites as the events went on, and it wasn't very long before some storylines emerged. My immediate favorite was George Harrison, Jr. for obvious reasons. A skinny guy with a mohawk, possibly Native American or Hispanic, with a lanky physique, I couldn't help but sing the theme song to James Bond, Jr. in my head, replacing the words with George's name. And if you got that reference, I'm glad we were doing the same thing at 3:30 p.m. in fourth grade. The next guy who gained our respect was Dennis Harvey-- a slightly older lumber man, but still with some fire in him. Here's a video of Dennis chopping off a slice of a tree with his chainsaw.

More heroes would emerge as the day went on. But after two competitions (tying the line and the chainsaw one), George and Dennis were our guys.

The chainsaw competition was cool, but kind of boring, and it was pretty obvious we were all their for the ax-throw (because no, there was no log rolling to our knowledge, and yes, we were also very disappointed). We moved down to the front row, in the sun, and close to the action. In front of us were two single-looking moms with young boys, the moms drinking beers and the boys watching in awe. At one point the mom said something to a older gentleman thrower named Tom, to which the boy noted with astonishment, "Momma, you talked to a LUMBERJACK!" His voice carried both awe and the possibility that she was about to be up to no good. Anyway, back to the rules.

Two throwers went at a time on separate targets. They got 4 throws and the top 3 counted. you could score 2, 3, 4, or if you hit dead center, 5 points. Another rule is that you have to hit the target with one side of the ax and not the tips at the top of each blade-- this came back to haunt Jason "Just the tip" Tilling, who hit the bulls-eye, but didn't score any points because of how it landed.

And for those of you trivia fans, if you are ever asked what color the center of an ax-throw target is, the answer is THE BULLS-EYE IS BEERS!!! That's right people-- they shake up and place a can of beer in the center of the target, so that it EXPLODES when it is hit with an ax. This is obviously the best move in sports since adding the DH in baseball. Every exploding can is as exciting as a grand slam in baseball-- probably because you feel like your buddy just did something ridiculous in your backyard and your parents are going to get pissed now and make everyone go home. Amazing.

Here is where our other plotlines emerged:

Dale Tucks (?):
Dale looks like a Native American smurph. He had leather gloves he used and his first few throws didn't quite find their mark. He was quiet and affable, however, and people in the crowd were very excited for him when he landed his second exploding bulls-eye, and finished with 14 pts, a number which tied...

Nathan Hodges and Jerry Hodges AKA Those Hodges Boys:
Nate Hodges had also landed 14 points, and sat cockily over to the side talking to other LJ's. Young and barrell chested, Nate was already a local legend, having won the previous three Championships at the Jamboree and looking to be the first ever to win four in a row. At the same time, his younger brother Jerry was entering the competition, and was getting a lot of support from the crowd. There were numerous calls of, "C'mon Jerry Hodges!" which didn't seem to help much as the camo clad youth seemed to let his frustration throw him off his game, and he put up scant few points. In stark contrast to his confident brother, Jerry looked younger and more angry, and potentially capable of killing the entire town if that's what it came to. The Hodges Boys would make another big appearance later on.

Back at the ax-throw, Nathan and Dale went into a sudden death finale, one throw each to determine the winner. Nathan slammed down a four spot with his powerful throw to begin and Dale carefully matched him with a more contained toss. They went to the next round, and the place was electric. Nathan stepped up, knowing he needed to close things out, and let his ax fly-- 3 pts. Shaking his head and stomping back to watch, Dale lined it up, knowing a door had been opened. Then, looking not unlike Joe or Mac from the Super Nintendo game Joe & Mac, Dale threw his ax and landed it for 4 pts. Dale had stolen the event from Nathan Hodges, and everyone applauded the effort.

One saw, two lumberjacks. Sold. Here's footage from the Double Buck competition. This isn't them, but Jerry and Nathan Hodges teamed up for the event and powered through to a 3rd place finish with the crowd going nuts the entire time.

We had to leave before the competitions were complete, so we didn't find out who won until today. It took some investigating, but thanks to my correspondence with Hardware Bob, I was able to find out that NATHAN HODGES WON IT ALL! He is the first LJ ever to win four straight competitions. And I'll tell you what-- they might just be regular guys, some probably younger than myself, but that day they were larger than life and like rock stars. For that day, they were not simply men-- they were Lumberjacks.

Clearly I Didn't "Chop Down" The Length of This Informative Post,

Here are some photos from the day:




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