Series Finale

The documentary series exploring the work of lumberjacks in the remote forests of the Pacific Northwest concludes. In this instalment, it is the final showdown in the Oregon mountains as the four logging crews race to cash in on the green gold.

With only one week left of autumn, this logging season will go down as one of the toughest on record. The axe men of the Pacific Northwest have survived the worst storm to hit the region in over 50 years; myriad technical problems have seen crews unable to work for long periods; and staff shortages have brought the loggers into conflict on numerous occasions. Now, the stakes have never been higher – it is either cash in, or lose everything trying.

As one of the biggest logging crews in the Northwest, JM Browning has pulled more loads than any other team this season, and has recently landed another lucrative contract. However, last week’s storm has transformed Big Creek from an easy tree-farm site into a chaotic blowdown that will be very dangerous and time-consuming to log.

Despite the risks involved, company owner Jay needs to get paid, so he pushes on and sends his cutting crew ahead to clear the area. “It’s real live right now,” says Jay of the treacherous site. “It could end up turning into a nightmare.” Sure enough, his men run into all kinds of problems as they tackle the tangled mess of broken trees. It is at times like this that Jay considers his future in the logging business. “I don’t plan on staying in the industry and continually going backwards,” he says. “I think I’m just going to quit.”

Just a few miles away, Jay’s son Jesse is not ready to give up so easily. With the deadline only days away
at the Shingle Mill site, the pressure to perform is on – and Jesse is stepping up to the plate. “We’ve got to keep logs going down the road to make a buck –it’s the only way to keep this company going,” he explains. The veterans of the Pihl crew have kept their heads above water this season by taking on every job they could find –and have somehow thrived. The storm blocked their access to the Beaver site, but they have managed to get back on track. “I think we’re going to make it, thank goodness,” says Mike.
“Somehow or another we always do.” But with this unruly bunch, anything can happen.

Running the yarder is one of the most complicated jobs on the mountain, and even the most experienced operators can make mistakes. In the line of fire today is Dustin –and it is not long before he suffers at the hands of operator Bill’s haste. He is about to hook a log when Bill prematurely pulls the carriage up –ripping the choker out of Dustin’s hands. This time the rigger is lucky –he narrowly escapes losing a limb. “That’s how easy it could happen,” he reflects.

At Round Top mountain, Melvin Lardy has kept his small company alive by taking big risks, but he needs a payday to compensate for the profit lost during the storm. After the rain washed away the mountain roads, Melvin has cut a deal to use private access roads –meaning that he and his men have one last chance to finish the season on a high. “We just can’t mess around,” he says. “We’ve got to get this job wrapped up.” However, Melvin has one last trick up his sleeve in the form of legendary tree-faller Earl Davis. Since losing his home to the weather, Earl has had to take on any work he can find –and now he and his son Eric are about to let it rip on Round Top.

Also looking to finish the season on a positive note is Darrell Holthusen and the Gustafson crew. The
terrible weather brought an abrupt end to their effort to complete the Challenge site, but it also cut them off from $1.5million-worth of equipment. Now, they embark on an audacious attempt to rescue two massive pieces of machinery from the slopes –using a skyline cable and a loader. “There’s a chance we could make it happen,” says Darrell.

“Let’s go for a ride!” After a fraught day spent struggling up the side of the mountain, the guys are elated to see Darrell and his machines come bursting over the ridge and onto the landing. “We did what they said couldn’t be done,” shouts Darrell. “That’s how we roll!”

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