Axe Men: Episode 6

Friday 18th December 8.00pm

The documentary series that explores the treacherous work of loggers in the Pacific Northwest continues. This week, the Rygaard crew strives to become the best on the mountain. Jesse struggles to convince his dad that he can run the team. Jimmy heads into uncharted waters. And Bart flies into peril when his helicopter gets lost in fog.

At the Rygaard site, boss Craig is keeping an eye on greenhorn Brad. His son, Gabe, accuses him of “babying” the rookie, but Craig feels obliged to give Brad a fair chance. Out in the brush, Brad is aware of the pressure on his shoulders. “They know I’ll be good soon, they just don’t like this process of me learning right now,” he says. Communication difficulties with his Spanishspeaking colleagues hamper his progress, but eventually Brad begins to pull his weight. “I’m getting stronger. I feel it day by day,” he says.

Gabe Rygaard, meanwhile, has his eyes on the prize of outdoing local rival JM Browning. “The goal was to beat Browning. The goal was to show them that David could beat Goliath,” he says. With the team just one load short of surpassing Browning for the season, Gabe senses victory. “I only know how to do one thing – and that’s log hard,” he says, with a grin.

The Browning crew has started work on a new slope under the supervision of Jesse Browning, who needs to prove himself to his dad, company boss Jay. Jesse knows that the extra responsibility provides an opportunity for him to make up for last season’s temper tantrums, which were caught on camera. “This is my chance to redeem myself so people in the world don’t think I’m a cry baby and a whiner,” he says.

But the day gets off to a terrible start when Jesse realises the skyline car is running too low above the ground. He cannot risk damaging the $80,000 piece of equipment, so he is forced to erect an extra support to lift the line higher. Further delays ensue when the car falls off the wire. “If he wasn’t the boss’s son, there’d be a lot more said,” grumbles one logger. Eventually, Jesse’s father shows up and starts to take charge. “This is a disaster of a day,” Jay growls. Has Jesse failed his dad for the last time?

Elsewhere, Jimmy Smith has pushed the boat out and bought – a boat. Jimmy needs a bigger vessel if he is to realise a profit from aqua logging. His new purchase, a retired 1966 naval boat, has two broken engines, a flooded cabin and a cracked hull, but Jimmy declares himself in love. “It’s like a girlfriend that’s a hassle is always a little better than one that’s not,” he says, smitten.

Jimmy will need to salvage a few more logs if he is to pay for the repairs to his boat. With his son, James, and old friend Pat, he sets off on his barge in search of green gold. The Holquiam River is uncharted water for Jimmy, who must keep his eyes peeled for submerged trees called ‘deadheads’ that could rip a hole in his hull. The boys retrieve a couple of old logs, but on the return trip they find themselves on a collision course with a thicket of deadheads. “Paddle, James, paddle!” screams Jimmy. “Hard, hard, hard!” Is Jimmy’s dream about to founder?

Also this week, Bart Colantuono gives reserve pilot Steve Smith a training lesson in the chopper. “I’m hoping Steve makes it,” says logger Tyler Roundy. “We need two pilots. One pilot can’t run hard all the time.” However, Steve feels sick in the passenger seat and asks to be let down. “If this is what it’s gonna take to be a logging pilot, I might have to give this up,” he says.

Bart must complete another three loads if Conner Aviation is to turn a profit for the day. Suddenly, thick fog and snow descends on the area, reducing visibility to almost nothing. “They always said, if you don’t like the weather in Montana, wait 15 minutes,” says boss Ryan Conner ruefully. Bart completes the three loads, but is unable to find the landing site in the fog. Matters worsen when an alarm sounds in his cockpit. “I’ve got about five minutes’ worth of fuel,” Bart says. “I gotta get the hell out of Dodge!” Is he about to come crashing down?

About the author

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1