While visiting Pigeon Forge this summer, I realized that real lumberjacks still exist. I had thought of them as long-gone manly men of earlier years gone by. Another job/career path that had been replaced by modernization.
Attending the Great Smoky Mountain Lumberjack Feud Dinner Show showed me how wrong I was. Along the walls along the way to the theater were the pictures and names of Lumberjack Champions and a museum about their craft.
As the show began, the real lumberjacks were introduced like stars in the World Wrestling Federation. All were seasoned award-winning lumberjacks. Some had competed in and won collegiate national competitions. And some were women!
Watching this amusing show, and the unbelievable skills of these young men, reminded me of how much I used to enjoy watching the lumberjack competitions on ABCs Wide World of Sports as a kid.
For the show, the modern lumberjacks were divided into two “families” along with the audience, to encourage us to root for one side or the other. The history of the region and of the importance of logging to the region was presented in a fun, family-friendly way. Awards – “cookies,” or discs sawn from a log – were given to a member of the winning family for each lumbering skill.
From log-rolling to tree-climbing races, it all went on right there in front of us in the big theater. And of course there were cross-cut sawing and chopping races. The saws zipped through the logs like a hot knife going through butter. Hunks of wood were flying as the axes were swinging.
Being a family show, little ones from the crowd were brought on stage to compete in junior lumberjack skills. Everyone left as a winner, with the hoots and hollers from the crowd. Adults from the crowd were brought in, too, to participate in some of the events. And of course, there had to be a little silliness here and there! A moonshiner and lumberjack wannabe showed up now and then with comic relief.
Being a dinner show, our meals were served in tin mess kits. Unlatching the lid revealed a hearty dinner, finished off by their homemade apple fritters. Sweet tea kept flowing as the laughs and lumberjack skills kept us alert.
Last week, we noticed a couple of dead pine trees in the back forty of my parents home. I rounded up a dusty old ax, and thought “I’m a lumberjack, and I’m okay…”
After a few chops, I hadn’t got very far. It took many more chops, and just as many stops to catch my breath. Once I had felled the tree, I realized again – those folks in the show, men and women alike, and all the other real lumberjacks out there are really athletes!