By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
“I was the lumberjack queen in 1967,” explained Finke.
And Butch? He was her escort to the ball.
“We were just starting to go out. I had asked him to be my escort to the royalty ball — and here we are 46 years later,” Finke said with a laugh.
Both Francine and Butch come from logging families: His father, Carl Finke, ran a local logging operation, and her family — the Altmillers — had also been in the industry for generations. So when they married a year after her reign at Lumberjack Days, she knew what she was getting into.
“I knew we would be into logging from the get-go,” Finke said.
For the Finkes, logging has always been a family business. While the men were at work in forest, the women had the job of everything else: bookkeeping, making phone calls, picking up parts and running errands. All of this amidst the weighty reality that logging wives face every day.
“It’s dangerous work and it’s hard work,” Finke said.
As logging machinery has developed over the years, many of the logging skills featured at Lumberjack Days have become obsolete. No more are there groups of men in the woods performing a manual cross cut on a log or chopping at trees with an ax. But the event is about celebrating the community, both its past and its present.
Unlike the early days, most of the log show competitors are professionals — not professional loggers, though they may be that, but professional logging contestants that travel from show to show. As an American Loggers Association-sanctioned log show, the event draws people from all over the Northwest and beyond.
But the rough and tough log show, with its birling, springboard chopping, Jack and Jill sawing and the like, is only one of four days of festivities. The three other days feature parades and carnivals, fairs and logging events, along with the event that makes all the other events possible: the auction. Auction bidders can pick up anything from hair products to skidder chains — mostly donated by local businesses — and in so doing, fund next year’s fun.
“This is something we all look forward to every year,” said Finke, adding that anytime you bring people in the community together, it’s rewarding.
Schmidt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 305-4578.
if you go
Orofino Lumberjack Days and Clearwater County Fair
Carnival from 4 p.m. to close
Kiddie Parade at noon
Carnival from noon to close
Main Parade at 10 a.m.
Carnival from 11 a.m. to close
Auction at 12:30 p.m.
Skidding and Truck Driving Contest at 4 p.m.
Horse Pull at 6:30 p.m.
Log Show and Contest at 10 a.m.
Carnival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
All events take place at Orofino City Park; entrance is free of charge.
Log Show Contest Primer
If you’ve gotten behind on your logging skills, here’s a quick refresher on four of the contests that take place Sunday:
BIRLING — Opponents stand on either end of a 15-inch log that is floating in a shallow pond of water. Trying to throw each other off balance, they roll the log with their feet, spinning it as fast as possible for a time period. Two out of three falls decide the match; if no one falls, the contestants move to a smaller log and longer time periods.
HOT SAWING — This event times a contestant sawing through a 24-inch log with a one cylinder modified power saw. They are allowed two minutes for starting the cut, warm up and adjustments. They must turn the saw off, place it on the deck and put their hands on the log and begin sawing on “go.”
JACK AND JILL SAWING (OR BUCKING) — A team of one male and one female saw as fast as they can through a 16-inch log. The world championship for this event is held at Lumberjack Days.
SPRINGBOARD CHOP — During this timed event, the contestant starts on the ground and chops a slot to set a “springboard” — a board that serves as a small platform — into a 9-foot, upright log. Standing on the first springboard, he chops a slot for a second springboard. While standing on that second springboard, he chops through a 12-inch block that has been attached to the top of the 9-foot upright log.