When a person was found dead in a hotel room recently, six students in Haywood Community College's criminal justice association were put on the case.
They studied fiber samples, scoured for finger prints and analyzed what was amiss in the belongings strewn about the room. Luckily, the individual was a mannequin, and the students were merely showing off their CSI skills at a regional competition.
The six HCC students are all members of Lambda Alpha Epsilon, the student chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association. And, all are competing this week in the organization's national tournament in Cincinnati, which includes crime scene investigation, criminal law, corrections, juvenile justice and organizational theory and administration. This is the college's first year as members of the criminal justice fraternity.
"I am really proud of how small we are and how many people we're sending," said Amy Thompson, an HCC student and member of Lambda Alpha Epsilon.
All the tests are written, with the exception of the crime scene investigation where students must gather evidence, treating each scene as if a crime had occurred and write a report of their conclusions.
During a Southeast regional competition this past October, the team participated in similar tests on a smaller scale. That time, the crime scene the students processed, replete with a "dead" mannequin, was not a case of foul play but instead turned out to be an accidental death.
"That was really tricky for them," said Cassie Walls, the team's advisor and a criminal justice instructor at HCC. "We have to approach it as if crime did occur."
In October, the team took home the first place trophy in crime scene investigating and criminal justice as well as second place and third place accolades.
"I've found that my students — even if they don't study — they have a good understanding (of the material)," Walls said .
Both Walls and Thompson hope to bring home a trophy or two or three from the national competition. And, if anyone can help do it, it's Thompson who loves the tediousness of such tests and competes in each of the academic categories.
Thompson's ambition is a bit intimidating; the 21-year-old works 40 hours a week and is a double major. The pre-med and opera student wants to become a forensic pathologist and work as a coroner for the FBI or CIA.
"I like solving the mystery, but I don't like being an investigator," Thompson said.
Chris Graves had just parked a school van in a field, and his wildlife students were filing out for some hands-on, out-of-the-classroom learning when they spotted a flock of about 80 crows clustered together.
No sooner were they out of the vehicle when one of Graves’ pupils began imitating the birds’ call. Chill ran up the students’ spines as the crows, like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, swarmed toward them.
“Students will remember that,” said Graves, a fish and wildlife management instructor at Haywood Community College.
With the sixth annual Wild Game Dinner rapidly approaching, students will have the chance to raise money while showing off their animal-calling skills to a crowd of hundreds of friends, family and curious community members.
The event also features a calling competition, in which students and others perform their best imitation of various animals’ purrs, clucks, yelps and cackles.
The main purpose of honing your wildlife calls is to draw an animal in when hunting. But outdoor sportsmen — a generally competitive bunch — have taken it to a new level, Graves said.
“It’s fun, but at some competitions, they get pretty serious about it,” he said.
Many of HCC’s students started hunting and learning how to call certain critters since they were young.
“I think they were born in camo,” said Shannon Rabby, a Fish and Wildlife Management Technology instructor. “They love the outdoors.”
Not only does the event provide amusement but it also serves as a good warm-up for the students who soon after battle other schools at the Southeastern Wildlife Conclave in mid-March.
“We are kind of proud of what we do at that,” Rabby said.
The group has snagged third place during the past couple of years despite going head to head with mostly upperclassmen and graduate students from four-year universities, including LSU and Auburn University.
“My students are freshmen and sophomores,” Rabby said with pride.
Haywood Community College is renowned for its various natural resources degrees, a sought after program by students across the South who want to be foresters, game wardens, park rangers and the like.
The annual Wildgame Dinner hosted by the students has outgrown its venue twice in its just six-year history, a reflection of its upstanding reputation in the community.
The school’s Wildlife Club began hosting the wild game dinner in the lower level of HCC’s student center. As the event grew, it moved to the Haywood County Armory.
“Next thing we knew, we had filled up the armory,” Rabby said. “It’s tremendously successful.”
Last year, about 700 people attended the dinner. It is now held at the Haywood County Fairgrounds.
The potluck dinner includes a silent auction with everything from art to live animals, a gun and live music by No Show Jones and the Wildermen. The six-member band first performed at the dinner last year and is made up of HCC students in the Natural Resources Department.
“What shocked me is I had them in class … these guys are very quiet,” Rabby said. But, not when they get an instrument in their hands.
The grand prize for the night is a lifetime hunting and fishing license. Funds raised at the dinner help pay for a scholarship as well as travel to various conferences and competitions.
“We want this to be a celebration,” said Rabby.
Haywood Community College’s Wildlife Club is hosting its annual benefit dinner, complete with drawings, live music, a silent auction and, of course, food. Attendees are encouraged to bring a dish as the dinner is a potluck and money to bid on items ranging from art to live animals.
What: The 6th annual Wild Game Dinner
When: 6 p.m., March 2
Where: Haywood County Fairgrounds
How Much: Suggested donation of $10 per person or $5 if you bring a dish.
Haywood Community College has hit a nearly $227,000 roadblock during the construction of it new creative arts building.
The $10.2 million building — a controversial project to begin with — will tap into contingency funds for the project to pay for previously unforeseen gaps in the architect’s plans. Contingency money is built into the price tag at the beginning of a project in case added costs arise.
“The reason you have a contingency is in case something crazy happens. That is the whole point,” said Bill Dechant, director of campus development. Dechant was hired recently as an in-house architect, a common position at state universities with nearly constant construction project but a somewhat new trends at the community college level.
The $226,901 expenditure will pay for the purchase of a new water pump and an outdoor shed to house the mechanism.
It became apparent in July that a pump would be needed to create sufficient water pressure for the building’s sprinkler system.
The architect firm hired to design the building had their engineers test the pressure in water lines on campus during the planning phase. The problem, however, is the pressure was tested down the hill from where the new building is located, Dechant said.
As water flows up the hill to the new building, it loses pressure, a fact the architect did not factor into his plans, Dechant said.
“Anyone who works in the mountains know if you take water pressure (at the bottom of the hill) and it has to go uphill several hundred feet, it is not going to be the same,” Dechant said.
Dechant explained the problem to county commissioners at their meeting this week, as county commissioners ultimately would have to sign off a change order to tap into the contingency funds.
Commissioner Kevin Ensley agreed that Raleigh-based architect Mike Nicklas should have taken the hillside position of the building into account.
“It is just common,” Ensley said. “It is always good to have an architect that is familiar with mountain construction.”
If the problem is not fixed, the building cannot open. All structures are required to have functioning sprinkler systems.
“Time is of the essence,” Dechant said. “This change order really needs to move.”
Even if the problem had been included in the project’s blueprints originally, the county would end up paying a similar amount for the pump at the beginning rather than on the backend.
Commissioners queried how the current added cost was tabulated.
The general contractor submitted five proposals before a price was settled on.
“We have been through several iterations of this design,” Dechant said.
The college negotiated a $100,000 decrease from what the contractor originally sought.
“We have about massaged this as much as we can,” Dechant said. “It is about as economical as we think we can do.”
Commissioners approved the change order but questioned how the oversight could have happened.
“Why wasn’t this done at such time the design would have accommodated this?” inquired Mark Swanger, chair of the county commissioners.
“That’s my question,” chimed in Commissioner Bill Upton.
The community college is currently trying to find out how such a costly slip-up occurred.
“We are in the process of trying to figure out who really drop the ball,” Dechant said. “The college feels like we are not responsible for that, that this is a design error. We are going through the correct procedures to solve that and figure out where responsibility lies.”
At the end of the job if there is evidence that the architect was negligent, Dechant said, the college would negotiate that at the end of the contract.
What is the outside architect saying about the bungle, asked Commissioner Mike Sorrells.
In the architect’s defense, he thought that a campus-wide water improvement project carried out last year would remedy any water pressure issue the the creative arts building might have, Dechant said.
Both the college and the architect plan to submit summary statements — their own version of events — to the state construction office.
Prior to the snafu, the college had a contingency budget of more $600,000. If the project changes are approved, the budget will drop to $365,198.
Dechant could not promise the commissioners that this would be the last of the change orders.
“I am sure there will be small change orders that come along. There always are,” he said. “I don’t think there will be any more change orders of the significance we are talking about. That said, I would never stand up here and guarantee anything.”
For community colleges, approving change orders can be a lengthy process. First, the project managers must get approval from the college’s Board of Trustees before presenting the issue to the county commissioners. The last step is to apply to the state construction office for permission to change a project’s costs and parameters.
Dechant said he did not know how the county or college would spend any remaining contingency funds if they go unused.
In addition to the cost of the water pump itself, the college may end up shelling out more funds in overhead costs to the contractor, who said construction will be delayed because of the error. If the contractor can prove that the change order held up construction, then HCC will pay more than $1,000 for each day that the construction schedule extended beyond what the workers were require to do.
The commissioners and college administrators battled for months about the scope of the creative arts building project. Commissioners insisted that the college slash the price of its plans, while administrators argued that the building construction and amenities had been whittled down enough already. The new facility will house studio and classroom space for students studying the creative arts, such as pottery and woodwork.
Both groups eventually settled on the current $10.2 million cost. Money to pay for the new building is coming from a quarter-cent sales tax approved by county voters more than four years ago to fund improvements to Haywood Community College’s campus.
“This is the biggest project we’ve ever undertaken at Haywood Community College,” Dechant said. Construction of the building, which is still expected to conclude in early May, is about halfway complete.
The building will feature a number of green initiatives, including rainwater harvesting, solar thermal energy and Energy Star photocopiers.
Two million dollars in grant money is coming to Haywood Community College for laid-off workers to find a new place in the workforce.
The money is part of a grant from the Department of Labor that’s been handed out across the state. HCC got the funding by going in with nine other community colleges to try for money from the advanced workforce training pot.
“As one of 10 community colleges in the NC Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, HCC will participate in the creation of a new learning model to place the unemployed, dislocated workers and others in viable advanced manufacturing jobs,” said HCC President Rose Johnson in a statement.
The funding is geared towards training in advanced manufacturing, giving the unemployed an avenue into the more skilled sectors of manufacturing.
Schools in the alliance will share a total of $18.8 million over a three-year period.
Local and regional manufacturing outfits such as Sonoco Products, Consolidated Metco and West CATV Supplies are also a part of the project, along with Workforce Development Boards and JobLink centers across the state.
In total, the money will help unemployed workers in 17 counties, including Haywood and Buncombe, where A-B Tech also got a cut of the grant, though its share was much smaller at $357,645.
Across the country, only 32 community colleges were awarded funds from the $500 million grant allocation, though 200 applied.
A large component of the programs funded by the grant will obviously be designed to retrain low-skill workers, but the colleges will also be working with the industries these students are likely to end up in, assessing their needs and tailoring the programs to meet them. Online learning will also be given a boost by the money.
Elsewhere in the state, Robeson, Beaufort County, Craven, Fayetteville, Nash, Edgecombe, Davidson County and Surry community colleges are a part of the alliance that won the funds.
Officials at HCC said it was a bit too early to announce with certainty exactly what the influx of cash will fund; the awards were only handed out last week.
But a committee was scheduled to meet over the weekend to discuss just where the money should go.
There are, however, restrictions on what can be done with it. The federal grant can only be used to retrain workers and improve their skills, not for other college projects like building repairs.
Haywood County commissioners sent a message to Raleigh lawmakers this week to abandon the notion of merging small community colleges.
The plan to merge some administrative functions at small community colleges was floated by some Republican lawmakers as a cost-cutting measure earlier this year, but has been met with stiff resistance across the state.
“It concerns me,” Commissioner Mark Swanger said. Haywood Community College could lose local control of its college, like which courses and degrees to offer.
“We need to keep local control,” Commissioner Kevin Ensley said. “We tailor-make our community colleges to the needs of our community.”
Ensley cited courses offered by HCC to prepare students for jobs in paper making technology and engineering at the paper mill in Canton. HCC also created a new degree in low-impact development to help answer the demand for more sensitive mountainside construction.
HCC’s ability to respond to needs in the community could be compromised under a merger plan, Swanger said.
The plan would merge administration of community colleges with less than 3,000 fulltime students. It would save relatively little — only $5 million, which amounts to less than half of 1 percent of the state’s community college budget — said Laura Leatherwood, vice president of student and workforce development at Haywood Community College.
Leatherwood brought the resolution to county commissioners this week.
“There’s a reason they call it a community college,” Swanger said.
Commissioner Bill Upton said he was concerned about jobs that could be lost if administration was consolidated with another community college.
Haywood Community College students are learning best management practices to reduce stormwater runoff by using the campus itself as laboratory, hoping to restore natural hydrology wherever possible as the campus grows and changes.
Preston Jacobsen, a sustainability analyst, said the campus has had a negative effect on Jones Cove Creek, which is the recipient of runoff from parking lots and other campus facilities. Sophomore students in the LID curriculum — which currently has en enrollment of 17 students — are using bioretention ponds and native plant research as part of their graduation project.
In the long run, the plan is for the project to mitigate the impact of development on the campus’s natural hydrology and native plant communities. Jacobsen said students will establish a “test meadow” of native grasses on a campus construction site to serve as a demonstration for converting lawn or forest to meadow, reducing landscaping maintenance needs and creating wildlife habitats on campus.
Jacobsen applied for and received a Greenforce Initiative Innovation Mini-Grant to help fund the project. HCC is one of only five community colleges in North Carolina to receive the grant. The Greenforce Initiative wants to create green career pathways leading to postsecondary credentials and family sustaining careers; increase access and success for lower-skilled adults; and use campus “greening” or sustainability efforts as “learning laboratories” for education and training.
Jacobsen said the grant is not driving the project at HCC, but that part of his job is seek out ways to bring money and investments to the college that will funnel back to students.
“Part of my responsibility is to enhance our instruction, so finding funds via grants or for our instructions to get professional development, the end goal is that it all that funnels back to what our students learn,” said Jacobsen.
The co-mingling of classroom learning and on-campus sustainability is part of HCC’s mission, said Jacobsen.
“Our overarching theme here is to have a living laboratory. If we can give students hands-on experience, whether in a lab or with a physical project on campus, this is part of that mission set forth by (HCC President) Dr. Rose Johnson,” he said.
“We’re working with the Fish and Wildlife program to research native plants to see which will propagate best here, and then apply what we learn to our bioretention cells,” said Jacobsen.
HCC has become a leader in green initiatives and is the only community college in North Carolina that offers a degree in low-impact development major.
“We face a major challenge to retool and rebuild our workforce and meet the challenges of the future clean energy economy,” said Lisa Madry, Campus Field Director for the National Wildlife Federation. “The Greenforce Initiative will help accelerate America’s ability to tackle the climate crisis while creating economic opportunities and pathways out of poverty.”
“Students will earn real world experience through design, implementation and environmental monitoring of the funded project,” said Jacobsen. “All the while, they’ll be improving our campus through the restoration of native plant communities and enhancement of natural hydrology.”
When droves of Haywood Community College wildlife and forestry students scrambled down the banks of Richland Creek last weekend with trash bags in hand, they knew it would be hard to top last year’s famed refuse recovery.
An old moonshine still, probably a few decades old, had washed down the mountain still partially intact and lodged in the creek.
“There was even a bottle that still had material in it, too,” said Shannon Rabby, HCC Fish and Wildlife Management instructor.
But an hour into the creek cleanup in Waynesville last Saturday, and nothing quite that exciting had emerged so far.
“Mostly newspapers, cups, cans, plastic bags, any kind of trash that shouldn’t be in the stream,” said Corey Grabley, 28, a wildlife student at HCC from Brevard.
The workday was part of the statewide Big Sweep, where communities from the coast to the mountains descend on their local creeks, rivers and lakes to pick trash from the water and banks.
“Trash begets trash. The cleaner it is the less likely people are to throw out more trash,” Rabby said of the Haywood Big Sweep. “We brought out 2,000 pounds last year and will probably come back this year with another 2,000 pounds.”
By day’s end, however, the group had netted a record amount of trash, coming in at 3,280 pounds.
Most of the trash being fished out doesn’t decompose — plastic, Styrofoam, glass and aluminum — so it’s hard to imagine just how litter-strewn Richland Creek would be if not for the annual volunteer day.
Some of the trash is clearly a result of people intentionally tossing their garbage to the curb or out the window. But much of it has far more innocent origins. It’s that plastic bag that blew away in the parking lot, or the water bottle that fell out of your car door and rolled down the driveway when you weren’t looking, eventually making its way to the storm drain down the street and then, ultimately, into Richland Creek.
“There’s a lot of trash that washes off the parking lots and stuff into the creek,” said Dustin Robinson, 22, a fish and wildlife student at HCC from Hendersonville. “Most of it is just people being careless, and when the rain comes it just washes it down into the creek.”
Robinson spent the morning slogging through the knee-deep water in old tennis shoes.
“It is pretty cold,” he admitted.
More than five dozen volunteers tackled the Big Sweep in Waynesville despite a drizzly, not-so-warm morning.
“If you think about it, the weather shouldn’t really stop you. You may be a little cold but you are fixing the planet that you live on,” said Patrick Allen, 16, a student at Haywood Early College.
“The trash isn’t going to just pick itself up,” added Lindsey Hires, 16.
Volunteers split into groups and were dispatched to different stretches of Richland Creek, ultimately scouring the banks from downtown Waynesville to the mouth of Lake Junaluska. Wildlife and forestry students at HCC were out in force as organizers of the cleanup, but several community members pitched in as well.
Cecelia Rhoden, 17, saw a flyer calling for volunteers on a bulletin board at HCC where she attends Haywood Early College.
“It feels pretty awesome knowing that we can do something that doesn’t even really matter how young we are,” Rhoden said. “You can’t always buy organic food or buy the recycled products, but this is something that costs absolutely nothing but your time, that you can come out and do for free.”
“I think this is the one thing teenagers can do that adults can do as well, but teenagers can join in without being taken over by adults,” said Allen.
Plus, they were more than willing to get a little dirty — slip sliding down creek banks and rummaging through the underbrush — and were equally undaunted by thorns or poison ivy.
“We are crawling under things and in things,” Allen said.
Allen, Rhoden and Hires got a bit more than they bargained for, however, after being assigned the stretch of creek under the Russ Avenue bridge. A small homeless population in Waynesville lives under the bridge, and the kids were surprised to find sleeping bags and other clear signs of human occupation — along with copious volumes of bottles and cans.
“We got about 80 to 100 glass bottles,” Rhoden said.
Since the kids were bent on recycling what they could, they emptied the contents of beer and liquor bottles and separated them from the rest of their trash finds.
“If you don’t recycle, you aren’t fixing the problem. You are just putting it somewhere else,” said Rhoden.
As for this year’s prized find?
“No liquor still this year… but one student found a large coconut,” Rabby said.
It’s not to late to join in. The Big Sweep is still coming up in several counties.
• Jackson County is set for Oct. 1; James Jackson, Tuckaseegee Outfitters, 828.508.3377.
• Macon County also is Oct. 1; meet at Gooder Grafix on East Main Street in Franklin at 9 a.m.; Guy Gooder, 828.421.4845.
• Swain County has two Big Sweeps, on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2. Nantahala River put in at 11 a.m. on Oct. 1 or shuttle from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. On Oct. 2, volunteers meet at the Swain County Administration Building at 9 a.m.; Laurie McLaren Perkins, 828.488.9735.
Haywood Community College can now boast a national champion after Daniel Jones took the title at the Stihl Collegiate Timbersports Championships in Oregon over the weekend.
Jones defeated five other collegiate champions from around the country. He won the standing block, cutting through a upright log in just more than 30 seconds, and also took first place in the single buck, peeling cookies from a felled 19-inch tree with a large, crosscut hand saw. In that event, he posted a 13.97 second time, which rivals even the speediest professional lumberjacks. His performance there would have won him eighth place in at the professional tournament, which ran alongside the college match.
In the other two events, underhand chop and stock saw, a chainsaw competition, Jones took second.
Jones won the prize with an overall score of 22. Events are judged solely on time.
He isn’t the first woodsman to bring a national title back to HCC. The team also produced a national champion in 2007.
As the only team sport at a college known for its forestry program, HCC has a strong timbersports team, which includes both men and women.
Jones recently graduated with two degrees from HCC, and his top rank at the collegiate final has won him a place on the professional circuit and a few other prizes.
Before the competition, Jones thought he would wait a few years to save for proper equipment before moving into the pro series. He will now be able to make the transition next year.
Dustin Cornelison of Haywood County has turned his belief in living a sustainable and frugal lifestyle into an actual business.
Drawing upon his past experience as a sustainability technician for an environmental education center and his skills as a welder and blacksmith, Cornelison, along with his wife, Sara Martin, have put together a plan to turn their farm, Two Trees, into a model of sustainable practices.
“We are selling the farm life style,” Cornelison said. “We hope to demonstrate self sufficiency and furnish people with the tools and knowledge to live off their own land.”
While still a student at Haywood Community College, Cornelison’s business plan was chosen as the 2011 winner of the Sequoyah Fund Community College Business Plan Competition. Cornelison received $10,000 to help him make his business a reality. The Sequoyah Fund encourages and financially rewards students who aspire to start businesses in the seven western-most counties of North Carolina and the Qualla Boundary.
Cornelison founded Sustainabillies, a company that promotes sustainable gardening and living through example, education and artistic recycling and retooling of scrap metals and used objects. He plans to create and sell a variety of custom garden tools and accessories, with the emphasis on using as much recycled materials as possible.
“Designs may be simple and functional using entirely recycled elements or they may be more artistic and use a combination of new and recycled materials,” he said.
Cornelison’s welding shop is located on Two Trees farm.
“I want to incorporate found objects in my designs as much as possible,” he said. “I can re-purpose heirlooms to create unique functional pieces.”
Some of the crafted items that will be for sale are a variety of trellises, trellised planters, compost barrels, rain barrel stands, rain barrels, raised bed components, fire rings, decorative hand rails, fences and gates. Cornelison will also sell artistic handmade benches and indoor and outdoor furniture as well as a line of home goods such as towel and pan racks. He will carry a selection of tools such as knives, hoes, axes and custom/specialty hand tools. He will also do commissioned specialty metal work and forging for clients based on their designs or needs.
“All of the items I make are of the highest quality. They are intended to last a lifetime,” said Cornelison. He can also fabricate new pieces based on old designs or tools.
As another component of Sustainabillies, Cornelison is planning a portable welding shop. “I can come directly to a client’s property to fix equipment. A person won’t have to worry about loading up heavy equipment and hauling it somewhere to get it fixed. I will be able to fix it on the spot,” Cornelison said.
Sustainabillies also sells small apple cider presses designed for home use. With the press, people can harvest juice from apple trees in their yard—another sustainable practice advocated at Two Trees Farm.
The business will offer several services such as the installation of permaculture, and the design and implementation of native, rain and edible gardens. It will offer all aspects of implementation, from tilling and planting to harvesting and preservation. Consultations on sustainability audits and the best use of a property will also be offered.
For now, the blacksmith and welding shop is open for business and Cornelison and Martin are making plans for other ways to use Two Tree Farms as a resource for their community. By next summer, the couple hopes to have farm tours once a week and to also offer a variety of workshops on sustainable living.
“We want to show people that you can live a normal, comfortable lifestyle-sustainably,” Cornelison said.
In 24 seconds flat, Daniel Jones can chop through a 13-inch white pine log, perched atop it and swinging his sharpened ax in a downward arc into the braced timber.
That, at least, is the kind of time he’s going for.
Today, he’s standing on a much harder poplar round behind his coach Jimmy Lawrence’s house. There’s a whole setup of timber-cutting apparatus out there, training grounds for Jones’ upcoming run in the collegiate championship of the Stihl Timbersports Series.
Jones just graduated from Haywood Community College, where he was a member of the timbersports team. His competition record this year was good enough to advance him to the national final in Oregon this week.
Timbersports isn’t exactly a household word, but woodsmen hacking away at logs or frantically sawing cookies from felled trees might seem a little more familiar, thanks to ESPN.
Getting ready for practice, where he’ll run through his four events — underhand chop, standing block chop, cross-cut saw and chainsaw — Jones suits up in chain mail to protect his legs and steel-toed tennis shoes.
Is the chain mail really necessary?
“Well, one of the professionals, he actually almost cut his calf off,” replies Jones.
So that would be a ‘yes.’
But, say Lawrence and Jones, injuries like that are pretty rare.
Part of that must be because the dangerous work is over so quickly. In the upcoming competition, Jones will be going against five other competitors and what counts is time and time alone.
In the chainsaw event, for example, he must saw two platter-sized cookies from a four-inch section of log. And it’s done so quickly that if you turn your head, you’ll miss it.
That’s not to underestimate the physical ferocity Jones has to bring to the practice. He’s no small guy, and after leaping back and forth astride that block, he’s well out of breath, and it’s clear that he’s using every stroke as efficiently as possible.
“That’s the first thing you’ve got to break everyone of,” says Lawrence, who coaches the HCC team. “Everybody tries to swing as hard as they can.” And that might be how you split firewood, but it’s not how you win.
Some of his team members, says Lawrence, have been chopping wood since childhood. Some have never touched an ax. And since it’s the only team the college has, it’s pretty popular. But everybody essentially starts on equal footing; no one comes in as a high school star.
Part of what Jones likes about it is the heritage behind it. Timbersports were born in logging camps, and they have a working history that few other sports share. Although Jones wasn’t an avid chopper before he joined the team, there was some foreshadowing that he might end up here.
“When I was little, me and my brother would go out in the woods and chop trees down and pick the biggest one we could, see how we could get them to fall,” says Jones.
Asked if he’ll continue on into professional competition circuit after this, he says he’d like to, thought it’s a bit of a financial hurdle.
A good ax can cost hundreds of dollars. A good cross-cut saw, with its long, wobbling blade, can run into the thousands.
There are only a few firms in the world that produce them, and each tooth is hand-filed.
But if he wins this week, he’s got an automatic spot in the pro tournament. It’s not something he could make a career of, but he hopes it’ll still be a part of his life.
“Even in the professionals, you don’t make a lot of money,” says Jones. “You just do it for the love.”