Spt_oncampus_cm_10/29, They’re lumberjacks and they’re okay

By Gus Bode

Sleeping all night and working all day has led the SIU Conclave team to 11 straight championships.

He stood on the log with his feet spread apart so his metal-covered boots touched the ends of the piece of wood.

Half of his mouth curled into a smile as he raised his hand-ax into the air and brought it down with authority into the center of the log, otherwise known as a cant.


Violent chopping continued until the center of the wood was reached. He spun around and started on the opposite side, driving the sharpened metal into the log.

The ax continued slamming into the cant until it split in half, sending the woodsman to the ground.

This is what it is like to compete in the speed chop in the Midwestern Forester’s Conclave.

The SIU Conclave Club traveled to Alberta Mich., to defend its Midwestern championship Oct. 12 at Michigan Tech. It was successful, winning for the 11th straight year. The team has been champion 15 times since 1983.

This year’s event included Southeastern Illinois College, Ohio State, Iowa State, Purdue, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan Tech and Illinois State University.

SIU Conclave captain Ben Snyder said the reason Southern Illinois has been so successful is because of the amount of time the team spends practicing. The team members start a month before the event.

SIU is known for its domination of the physical events, a fact that held true again this year as the team took first place in 12 out of the 16 events. In fact, its only weakness was in the non-physical events such as wood identification, compass and traverse and the tobacco spit, though club member Steve Nelson earned a second place finish in tobacco spitting.


“In recent years, we’ve broadened ourselves as a team to all events,” said Chris Rokosh, who earned first place finishes in the jack/jack log roll and the jack/jack bucksaw. “In the past we struggled against the academia teams. We’re a pretty well-rounded team that can pick up points in any of the events.”

Champions are awarded a tree-cookie trophy with a list of all previous winners imprinted on it, much like the NHL’s Stanley Cup. It is on display in the Agriculture building here at SIU.

He stood next to the stump holding the 30-inch ax vertical in the air.

On the stump was a match that would soon be nearly chopped to bits.

Whack! The ax was brought down nearly touching the match.

A judge walked over to the stump and pulled out a comb. The ax was rolled out of the way and the comb was placed between the match and the knick in the wood. Three comb teeth distance. Three points. The lowest score would win.

Again the ax is raised into the air and brought down onto the log.

The judge returned to the stump. Two comb teeth. Two points.

The judge backed away as the ax was raised a third and final time. Down it came, making a direct strike on the match. The match catches fire. Minus one point.

SIU has been given the honor of playing host to next year’s Midwestern Forester’s Conclave Championship in October. The last time SIU held the event was in 1997.

The club is forming a committee to sign sponsors and decide where in Southern Illinois the event should be held.

In addition to the usual events, SIU is required to come up with an additional special event. This mystery event can be anything from a relay race to tug-of-war. Usually, there isn’t enough time for these events, but they do count when they are used.

The club has decided that only the committee should know what the special event will be, so that there is no advantage given.

“The other teams are going to want to beat us on our own home turf since we have such a long winning tradition,” Snyder said. “We get along with the other teams, so it’s not just about the competition.”

Two vertical stakes stood vertically out of the ground, directly horizontal from another set of stakes.

Two men stood at each end, but one of them had four four-foot long pulp sticks in his possession. They were about to play Jack Pulp Toss.

Time began as the first man grabbed the 15-pound pulp and tossed it through the air, attempting to make it land between the two stakes in the opposite pit. Two pulps landed inside the stakes, two points.

After all four were thrown, the second man grabbed the pulps and pulled them through the stakes. Now it was his turn.

He grabbed the first pulp and hurled it toward the posts.

Pulps flew through the air for the next several minutes until 24 points were earned.

The rest of the pulps were thrown into the pit to stop the clock.

Reporter Christopher Morrical can be reached at [email protected]