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Original Issue

Anyone Seen a Blue Ox?

For 28 years, aspiring Paul Bunyans have gathered in Hayward, Wis., for the Lumberjack World Championships, pitting themselves against one another and massive lengths of straight-grained white pines that have been harvested from the forests nearby. The weekend of challenges includes such unique tests as racing up and down 100-foot-tall trees (a view from the top, left); chopping—underhanded and sidearm style—through telephone-pole-thick logs; providing half the power to a bucksaw slicing off 20-inch-in-diameter chunks of pine; wrestling chain saws as the teeth raucously chew through culvert-sized tree trunks; and trying to remain upright on logs that are rolling in the water. As for the winners, let the chips fall where they may.

Spectators come belted and bumbershooted to watch the big men—and a few women, such as Toni Bluder-Wagner in the speed-climb contest (middle right)—challenge the wood. A contestant marks a log before the chopping event; another uses sweat and muscle to move a bucksaw.

The tools of the lumberjack trade include climbing spurs (top, being sharpened); single-bit axes (competition models, made in Australia, cost $130); and powerful 20-inch, 60-pound chain saws. After the big guys get done, who can blame a couple of tots for trying a bit of logrolling.

It's the fancy footwork that counts when it comes to "white water" at the championships.