(7/13)

The documentary series exploring the treacherous work of lumberjacks in the remote forests of the Pacific Northwest continues. Following four teams of loggers, Axe Men brings to life one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and profiles the brave men who risk their lives on a daily basis. In this episode, the downturn in the housing industry begins to take a financial toll on the crews.

At the Pig Farm site, 35 miles from the Oregon coast, the Pihl team members find themselves with little work. “Somehow or another we’ll live through it, but it’s scary,” says owner Mike. To make matters worse, numbers are down because a key yarder operator is away sick. This means that inexperienced site boss Todd Cutright must take the controls. His initial attempts to pull logs result in several breakages. As well as damaging profits, Todd’s amateur driving skills are making the other crew members nervous. In additon, the felling team is getting too close to the skyline, which means there is a very real danger that one of the two-storey-high trees could crush the cable.

Poor performance is also an issue over at the Challenge site. Gustafson Logging’s hook tender Robbie Motsinger says, “If I had to sum this Challenge job up, I would have to say they named it perfect.” But it is Robbie’s needless mistakes that have cost the company most dearly. His latest blunder is leaving expensive equipment unattended at the site overnight.

The next morning, Robbie calls team leader Darrell Holthusen to break the bad news – 3,000 feet of top-quality synthetic rope has been stolen. With a total value of $4,500, the development comes at a bad time for the struggling business. “As much as the thief is at fault, probably Robbie is too,” says Darrell. To add to the blow, a two-week period without work is looming. As activity grinds to a halt, all Darrell can do is take the law into his own hands in conducting a ground search for the thief.

Business is slow even for industry giant JM Browning. Owner Jay has been forced to take on smaller jobs and use sub-standard equipment. As a result, Jay’s son Jesse is becoming disillusioned with logging life. He must operate an 18-year-old yoder that is less powerful and reliable than the machinery to which he is accustomed. “I’ve never had a good day on it,” says crew member Carl Hazen. “Something always goes wrong.” So far, only two out of the projected 18 loads have been shifted from the site and no further progress is to be made – a yoder malfunction means work must shut down for the day.

At Round Top Mountain, Melvin Lardy’s Stump Branch team is making the best of the industry slump. The young company is known for its gungho attitude, using innovative and risky methods to reap maximum rewards. “My philosophy always is lower your shoulder, lower your head and go through and get it done,” says Melvin.

In order to save time and increase profits, Melvin decides to do some jammer logging. This technique involves fishing for logs with a yoder instead of collecting them with a skyline. The yoder operator flings the steel cable around like a lasso, releasing it at just the right moment to catch a bundle of logs. The process is fast and produces a greater yield, but carries with it a high risk of injury to the crew if the driver releases the cable at the wrong moment. “It’s gonna be exciting, that’s for sure,” says Melvin.

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