Axe Men: Episode 3

Friday 27th November 8.00pm

The documentary series that explores the treacherous work of loggers in the Pacific Northwest continues. This week, problems with new equipment delay the Browning crew. New boy Brad struggles to keep up with the pace. Bickering father-and-son team Jimmy and James battle to drag a log out of a riverbed. And a disagreement erupts in the Pihl camp.

Deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, rugged men make their living doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Their mission is to retrieve valuable timber perched on steep mountainsides, using a combination of skill, daring and heavy machinery.

This week, Jay Browning gives his crew a dressing down following the previous day’s poor display. A breakdown meant the team went home early – costing the company thousands of dollars. Now the pressure is on Jay’s son, crew boss Jesse, to prove his worth. To speed up the process, Jay has invested $30,000 in electronic chokers – clasps used to tie logs together. Unfortunately, the new gizmos do not work as they should. “They’re costing us quite a bit of time right now,” says logger Carl.

Jesse calls in an expert to show the loggers how to use the chokers and, before long, the team hits its stride. Jesse earns his dad’s congratulations when the crew achieves its target of 28 loads –worth a tidy $33,000. “Jesse’s showing that he’s capable of doing this job and getting it done with no help from Dad or anybody else,” says Jay.

To the north, another father-and-son-team hopes to challenge Browning’s supremacy. With a smaller crew, Craig Rygaard and son Gabe aim to pull an ambitious 20 loads from their patch of forest. “We just might keep up with old Browning,” says Gabe. Both Rygaards have their eyes trained on greenhorn Brad, a college boy fresh to the slopes. “It’s really hard to tell if a guy’s gonna make it or not till you put him right in there,” says Gabe.

As a graduate in environmental science, Brad is fascinated to see the business end of logging. “It’s good how they do it,” he says. “They have to replant it so it’s real nice… In 50-60 years, they’ll log the same trees they replanted.” However, the work takes its toll on Brad and by 10 o’clock he is exhausted. The final straw comes when he is told to carry a 100lb coil of steel wire down the hill. Stumbling through the forest, Brad is put to shame by 30-year veteran Rick, who carries three coils. “Compared to people back home, I am one of the toughest guys – but this is brutal in so many different ways!” he says. Will Brad last the day?

Elsewhere, Jimmy Smith calls upon his son James to help him salvage a huge log from a riverbed. The preserved trunk could fetch $10,000 – but first Jimmy needs to find a way to pull it out of the water and onto his barge. “My son’s job is to keep me alive,” Jimmy explains. “He always says I was born without the part of the brain that makes you afraid.” Hyperactive Jimmy is quick to anger – and James bears the brunt of his expletive-filled wrath as the bumbling pair struggle to lasso the log. Mishaps ensue and Jimmy is forced to call upon the camera crew to fetch him more fuel. Can he succeed in tugging ‘Moby Dick’ from its watery depths?

Also this week, conflict brews at the Pihl logging site. Supervisor Keith, sitting in the yarder machine, is annoyed that the loggers on the hillside are not cutting the trunks into manageable chunks. “It’s dangerous – we don’t have a lot of working room here,” he grumbles. Logger Dwayne insists he is only following boss Mike’s orders. But when Mike shows up and contradicts him, a furious Dwayne decides to give his employer a piece of his mind. “I’m going up there to tell him to go to hell!” he yells. Is Dwayne’s season about to finish before it has even begun?

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