At this year’s Squamish Loggers Sports Festival, Amy Fenton and her sister Tiffany are participating in the Double Buck event; the same one their grandmother and her sister did fifty six years earlier.
All in the Family
“So, who is sharpening your saw?” Ruth inquires, with genuine interest glinting in her eyes. “Well, the saws for the bucking usually get sent to Campbell River now,” Amy, her granddaughter, replies. “It’s very specific. The teeth are bent in certain ways and then there is a raker tooth that takes the sawdust out. There are only certain people who know how to sharpen them,” she continues enthusiastically. Ruth laughs.“I think we just used the old saw we had at home when we entered…because we cleared our own land up on the hill, you know.”
Ruth Fenton and her granddaughter Amy Fenton share stories back and forth with ease, reminiscing about life in Squamish through the years and talking about their soon to be common thread as logger sports competitors. Listening to Amy’s description of saw types and teeth styles, you would think she was a seasoned contender. In reality, Amy will make her debut this summer at the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival, 56 years after Ruth made hers.
They are settled together on the couch in Ruth’s living room, in the house she has lived in since 1963. Mugs of fresh coffee sit on the small table in front of them along with a plate of homemade muffins. They each hold on their laps a copy of their family tree, a large album meticulously compiled of photos, newspaper clippings and pieces of Squamish history. Each branch of the family has their own version with specifics added, relative to that household. Looking through the binder, one truly feels like they are traveling back through time to the early days of the Squamish and Brackendale communities. Ruth, now 90 years of age, moved to Brackendale when she was only five. “There weren’t many cars then. We walked mostly everywhere before we got a truck,” she comments. Ruth remembers only 12 families living close enough with children to play with. From an early age, Ruth and her family were involved in the Loggers Sports Festival and participating in it quickly became an integral part of their family traditions and a way to build a strong sense of community in the area.
“This is the photo,” says Amy, turning the page to reveal a black and white newspaper clipping from 1960. The photo is of Ruth and her sister Joyce participating in the double buck event at the Squamish Logger Sports Festival. Both women are pulling hard at the long saw slicing through the tree, and wood chips are flying into the air. “I have a thing for re-doing photos,” Amy confesses. “I said to my sister, Tiffany, that we should redo this one and she was into it!” Her excitement is contagious and the idea of recreating a historical photo is so captivating that the organizers of this year’s Loggers Sports Festival are hoping to give Amy and Tiffany a moment during the competition to change into a 1960s attire and stage the photograph. “That was my initial motivation: seeing the photo. I was thinking that we’d dress up the same. I wasn’t even thinking about competing at first, but now my sister and I are actually going to compete as well! Of course, you have to wear bucking chaps during the competition now,” Amy continues.
As an introduction to the logger sports events, Amy was given an opportunity to participate in the Timber Training Program this past June. “There were ten of us,” Amy explains, “and I don’t think anyone really had done much of this before.” Over four sessions the group learned the basics of three common loggers sports events and even had a chance to test out their new skills against each other in a friendly competition. The first evening, they learned the axe throw where contestants stand 20 feet from a 36 inch target that sits five feet off the ground. They throw a double-bladed axe four times (one for practice and three for a score), aiming to hit the bull’s eye and accumulate the most points. The second evening consisted of birling, also known as log rolling, which is definitely a crowd pleaser at any logger sports festival. Here, two contestants struggle to maintain their balance while rolling on one 15-inch diameter log in a pond of water. The winner manages to stay on the log while their opponent falls into the pond. Then, of course, there is the double buck where a team of two contestants aim to slice through the log as fast as possible using a crosscut saw. Amy maintains that she had so much fun learning new skills and all the coaches were so supportive that she decided to enter all three events.
“Competition is not the main thing. It’s really all about learning something new and promoting loggers sports. And we just want to see how many people we can bring out to watch the festival,” Amy concludes.
The Roots Run Deep
Ruth agrees that despite the training being new and the clothing being different, the Loggers Sports Festival has always been about tradition and community. “It was a small community in 1960 so the whole town joined in. In those days everybody went because it was a big town event. Of course logging was the big thing then too.” Ruth never really felt out of place as a participant in 1960. “Everyone was just involved,” she states. Ruth lists off the names of uncles, nieces, cousins and other family members who were all involved in some way or another, from competing to promoting the event to building the bleachers for the spectators to sit on. It was a truecommunity project and really a family tradition.
Amy hopes this tradition will continue to her seven-year-old daughter, Rori-Lynn as well. Rori-Lynn hasn’t seen her mother throwing axes or bucking logs yet, but she’s excited by the idea. Rumor has it there is even a children’s birling station at the pond and Amy is hoping to spark her daughter’s interest in time for the 60th celebration of the festival, next year. Amy and her daughter Rori-Lynn only recently moved back to Squamish after living in Saskatoon for a year and Amy couldn’t be happier to share this community with her daughter. The Fenton’s have many ties to the area and family traditions definitely run deep. Another place you may spot the Fenton family is in Lily’s Garden. The garden sits at the edge of Rose Park, between the Mamquam Blind Channel and Hwy 99, and is marked with a large stone monument. Engraved in the stone are the words, “home site of Lily and George Carson”. The land was donated by the Carson family in the 90’s when the District of Squamish developed the adjacent Rose Park. The garden is named after Ruth’s mother and the family gathers there every May to perform a spring cleanup and general maintenance. This ritual is an important opportunity for the newest generation to get to know each other, Amy explains. Gathering together for Squamish Days Loggers Sports will provide the same opportunities.
“So on the Saturday do they still have the beef and buns and everything?” Ruth inquires of Amy.
“Oh ya! The Rotary Beef Barbecue is on both Saturday and Sunday,” she responds. Clearly, it’s a family favorite. The meat for the barbecue is cooked slowly over a bed of alders and is not to be missed. In fact, most of the events could be described that way from the Peter Harris Logger’s PancakeBreakfast to the Festival Parade and from the Chair Carving to the Bed Races. Of course, the two world-class Loggers Sports competitions always steal the show, with the double buck being one of the most exciting events.
“I’m nervous, but I’m also really excited,” Amy assures her grandmother. Ruth smiles, undoubtedly knowing the feeling.
Squamish Days is one of the most popular events in Squamish and is truly a long weekend of fun and excitement. Not only is the rich logging heritage of Squamish on display, but the lively community spirit as well. Join Ruth and Amy Thursday, July 28th to Monday, August 1st to experience Squamish at its finest. For more information about Squamish Days, visit http://squamishdays.ca