Catching a buzz
Ragland family beats out youngsters in Escalante Days chain saw contest
For chain saw competitions, it helps if you're raised in the timber industry.
That's certainly the case for the Raglands, owners of Stoner Top Lumber, during the main event of Escalante Days in Dolores.
The family took home top honors in the competition, which drew hundreds of onlookers Saturday morning in front of town hall.
In the big-saw category, Harold Ragland took first place, his grandson Luke Ragland took second, and Bill Ragland took third.
In the small-saw category, Bill Ragland took first place, Jerry Rose took second, and Doug Ragland took third.
"I guess we know our way around a log," Bill Ragland said. "I've been doing this for 50 years."
Fifteen competitors revved up their saws, and fine-tuned chains for the traditional event. They were timed on making three cuts through a ponderosa pine secured to the back of a trailer parked in the middle of Central Avenue.
A self-described old-timer, Bill Ragland had the technique down, buzzing his 7910 Domar to a 6.45 second victory that evoked huge cheers.
"That's a tough time to beat, but maybe my grandsons can do it," he said. "You can't make any bobbles, or its over. We never miss this day."
Muscled 20-somethings foundered as they tried to force the saw, binding it. Others had hard luck with stubborn knots.
Older loggers know how to finesse the saw more, said Terry Rose, a retired logger from Dolores who took a first place last year.
"Of course, more CCs doesn't hurt either," Rose said.
Harold Ragland battled younger competition, but prevailed.
"I'm fourth-generation logger. There's a bunch of us here today. The trick is to let the saw do the work and avoid human error," he said.
The event attracts newcomers each year, said organizer Debbie Valerio, who won the women's division.
"It's part of our history, and gets pretty competitive, as you can see," she said, pointing to a youngster throwing his hat after a disqualification.
Mike Williams, of Dolores, entered for the first time. He has been working for Tree Tender for the last year.
"I thought I'd give it a shot. I make a living climbing trees and working with my chain saw," he said. "Today is a rush, and the crowd makes it pretty intense."
Later on, tattooed muscle-heads faced off in the arm-wrestling competition.
Rich Morris won the heavyweight class. Robert Hunter won the middleweight, and Chaz Thompson won the lightweight title.
"He (Justin Smith) was a really strong dude. It was a great competition," Morris said.
Among the women, Winnie Reed gave herself an early birthday present by winning first place by beating Janet Hugg. She turned 59 on Sunday.
"I was going to retire after winning last year, but they talked me into it again. It was fun," she said about beating the youngsters.