Kenneth Gautreaux | 10/8/2018 3:39:24 PM
(10/08/18) LEESVILLE, La. — It’s a long-standing Vernon Parish tradition and pays homage to the biggest industry in the area — forestry. Approximately 150 4-H’ers competed in a woodman skills contest as part of the West Louisiana Forestry Festival.
According to the Louisiana Ag Summary, Louisiana has nearly 15 million acres in forest production. In 2017, the total value of forest production for the state was $3.8 billion. Forest-related industries are a major economic driver in Vernon Parish.
“Forestry is a big industry, our largest in the parish,” said Chad Hagan, a Vernon Parish 4-H agent. “We just try to bring it back old style with the bowsaw, the cross cut and the cant hook for the log roll.”
Events in the contest included the log roll, bowsaw, match split, pulpwood toss and rope climb. There was also a leaf and insect identification component, but the highlight of the event was the crosscut competition.
Coral Jean, a competitor with the Evans 4-H Club, is a fan of the crosscut event. “It’s the quickest. It’s fast-paced. It’s the heart and soul of woodman skills,” she said.
Leesville 4-H’er Greyson Grimes was competing in the crosscut competition, and he said you have to be physically ready to compete. “It is the most physically demanding,” Grimes said. “If you’re not fit in just about every way and have a good core, you cannot do it.”
Former competitors came back to judge the event and serve as volunteers to help coordinate the events. For some, this event ignited an interest in pursuing forestry as a career.
“4-H led me to the career path I’ve chosen, through the 4-H University forestry competition and obviously competing here and the state woodmen skills in Winnfield,” said Tristen Nicholas, a Louisiana Tech student majoring in forestry.
Jason Nolde works in the Kisatchie National Forest with the U.S. Forest Service and said 4-H also influenced his career choice.
“I actually work in the forestry industry,” Nolde said. “It [4-H] did that for me. It brought me closer and really set the stage for a career.”
While the focus of the event was on woodman skills and competition, there were also some life lessons mixed in.
“Life is not easy, and the bowsaw for the girls is a little hard,” Hagan said. “Some things in life aren’t easy, but you hope they learn from this. If you keep trying, you can reach your dreams.”
The top finishers from this event will advance to the state competition in Winnfield at the Louisiana Forestry Festival in April.
Eddie Miller, left, and Faith Wyatt, representing the Leesville High School 4-H Club, work on getting a log around a barrel using cant hooks during the log roll contest. The event was part of the 4-H Woodman Skills contest held in Vernon Parish as part of the West Louisiana Forestry Festival. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter
Hannah LaCaze, left, Kyle McKee, sitting on log, and Morgan McAllister, participants with the Pitkin High School 4-H Club, finish their cut during the crosscut competition of the 4-H Woodman Skills contest. The event is one of eight featured at the contest held during the West Louisiana Forestry Festival in Leesville. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter
Elizabeth Harvey, of the Evans 4-H Club, competes in the bowsaw event during the Vernon Parish 4-H Woodman Skills contest. Her teammate Everett Comer is spraying lubricant on the saw to help the saw perform better. The contest is an annual tradition and is held during the West Louisiana Forestry Festival in Leesville. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter