W.Va. lumberjack family is a cut above rest

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Chain saws are buzzing, axes are flying and let the wood chips fall where they may.

The chain saw competition at the Mountain State Forest Festival pitted father and son for bragging rights as to which West Virginian could fell more timber in the fastest time. Then as Arden Cogar Jr. struggled to start his machine, his 79-year-old father sliced through three slabs of timber, drawing hoots and hollers from the crowd as the machine's roar died down.

"He can still whoop my butt any day of the week," Mr. Cogar Jr. said of his father.

Chopping through wood is a family tradition for a West Virginia-based clan that boasts at least 20 members who've cut timber in various forms of lumberjack competition.

Members of the Cogar family stay busy competing about 20 weekends out of the year. And three of them soon will take their skills against competitors from more than 20 other countries at the Stihl Timbersports Series World Championships Friday and next Saturday in Stuttgart, Germany.

Arden Cogar Jr. held the national title for four of the past six years but was unseated in June by cousin Matt, who at 26 became the youngest U.S. overall champion of the Stihl Timbersports circuit.

The two veterans of the global circuit will be joined by Matt's father, Paul Cogar, whose decades of work in the logging industry finally paid off when he qualified for the five-member U.S. team for the first time.

"It's going to be a pretty proud moment doing that," said Paul Cogar, 56.

Local and regional competitions keep the Cogars' skills sharp. In all, six family members earned prizes at the recent festival in Elkins, although theirs wasn't the only one with multiple generations competing.

Other fathers and sons threw hatchets at a red bull's eye on a wood target and worked the long saw in teams as sawdust piled up on the stage. The Cogar family's roots in logging date to the 1930s, starting with Arden Cogar Sr.'s father and brothers.

Eventually, family members began taking part in competitions that included a variety of ax, and crosscut and chain saw events. Arden Cogar Sr. began competing a half century ago and set dozens of world records in lumberjack sports. His son, Arden Jr., is a former power weightlifter who approaches his day job as a civil defense attorney the same way he does his role as a competitive lumberjack -- with preparation and more preparation.

"It's a wonderful release after a heck of a work day," said Mr. Cogar Jr. "For me, there's nothing more rewarding than finishing off a day by going home and hitting something that can't hit me back."


First Published October 18, 2013 8:00 PM


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