A new documentary series, Ax Men, on the History Channel premiered this past Sunday. The show follows the work of four different logging companies in Oregon. Each of the companies works on very steep terrain using cable logging to get the wood off the incredible slopes. The action photography is awesome. The show highlights the extreme dangers that the loggers face every day. Using first-person narration and very well done animation the show brings us into the lives and struggles of the loggers.
The four companies use similar techniques but they are very different. One is a large operation with new equipment. The owner, who lost one arm in an accident, is always experimenting with new techniques to increase production, such as using a helicopter to initially set a cable. Another company works with a small crew using a converted WWII tank as a yarder. When one worker goes home with a bad back everyone has to shift jobs and production plummets for the day.
The show concentrates on the drama of the loggers and their work. Watching it as a forester I think of the bigger picture of the forest situation in Oregon with the restrictions on harvesting and the controversies on the best way to manage the forests. The previews hint that in future episodes the decline in logging, the closure of mills, and the difficulties in the forest economy will be highlighted. Watching this show I can understand the slightly bemused attitude I have always noticed in loggers when I have been on logging tours. They know that all the silvicultural theories rely on their actions.
The loggers work under tremendous pressure. In addition to the dangers they have to maintain production to get paid. Their contracts have hard deadlines that they have to meet. It's a hard way to make a living.
This is a series well worth watching.