Dave Johns slipped on chain mail over his feet, ankles and legs. The metal rings linked together to form a mesh-like armor, similar to what knights wore in the Middle Ages.
The Syracuse, N.Y., native protects himself with the armor every time he participates in lumberjack events, and Saturday afternoon was no exception.
He was among about 30 loggers from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia who participated in a lumberjack competition at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.
Johns pointed out that his shoe had been cut into by an ax.
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The ax went right through it. Had I not been wearing it (chain mail), it could have severed my foot. Thing is, it doesn’t protect from the blow so it felt like you just took a sledge hammer to your foot, but it saves you.
Dave Johns, lumberjack
“The ax went right through it,” he said. “Had I not been wearing it (chain mail), it could have severed my foot. Thing is, it doesn’t protect from the blow, so it felt like you just took a sledgehammer to your foot, but it saves you.”
The lumberjack event included a series of logging activities, such as ax throwing, standing block and chainsaw cutting, and log bucking.
The winners of the men’s and women’s divisions received a monetary prize, said Bill Simcox, president of the Pennsylvania Professional Lumberjack Organization.
Aspen wood from a Milesburg-based logging company was used for each event, with each log cut the same size for fairness, Simcox added.
Aspen wood from Milesburg lumber company used during lumberjack event
Simcox said softer wood is preferred because it’s easy to cut through.
Martha King, of Chadds Ford Township, participated in Saturday’s event. She’s also a reigning lumberjill international champion. Last year, she was on the winning relay team that represented the United States in Australia.
“It’s something I’ve always been into,” she said. “I grew up near Philly, chopping down trees with my dad, and I guess I just kept it up.”
She was one of a few contestants Saturday who hit the bull’s-eye during the ax-throwing event. And when she did, the crowd surrounding the basketball court at the fairgrounds cheered.
“Everyone has a different style to their throw so there is no real perfect method,” King said.
Simcox said Grange Fair committee member Latrisha Hough got in contact with him about bringing the lumberjack competition to the fair.
“What we really wanted was to give people a full competition like they would see at other events,” he said. “It’s a hobby for a lot of people, but one they’re really invested in and we wanted to bring that here.”