Competition rooted in pioneer experience
At annual Russellville festival
Saturday, April 20, 2013
RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. — When the pioneers chose to stay in what would become Russellville more than 175 years ago, they probably cleared the land for their homes and livelihood with cross-cut saws.
Visitors to the 175th anniversary celebration and annual Frog Leg Festival and Engine Show on June 8 will have the chance to try their hand at the tool.
Participants also could compete with the two-man, simple machine’s modern equivalent — the chainsaw.
R.L. Mantle has organized the cross-cut and chainsaw competitions for the town’s festival for the past several years.
“It hooks up real well with the 175th,” Mantle said “It’s the way timber was cut, or with a chop ax.”
A speed-cutting champion a hundred times over, Mantle, 71, first tried the chainsaw competitions on a dare in 1972.
He has more than 500 trophies and has raced chainsaws in seven states.
Since he uses the chainsaw almost daily in his farm work, the transition to competition wasn’t difficult.
But the machines can be quite different.
Although the Russellville competition will be for stock saws, Mantle prefers racing with “hot-rod” saws.
“It’s like a race car versus the car you drive down the street — 13,000 cc’s versus 20,000 cc’s,” Mantle said.
As in any competition, there’s a healthy dose of one-up-manship and machismo.
“It’s just a fun thing,” Mantle said.
Last year, the Russellville chainsaw event had 40 cuts — one per saw, but sometimes several to an operator.
Each competitor has a standardized 7-inch-by-9-inch milled log.
What sets apart success often is the care and maintenance of the machine, particularly a sharpened chain, Mantle said.
But for operator and machine, “it’s whatever you get used to,” he said.
Mantle’s preferred tool is an old Poulan, which “no one else probably would run,” he said.
As for the two-man, cross-cut competitions, Mantle said the key is finding a rhythm.
He and his wife, Colleen, 56, have won “Jack and Jill” contests several times. (Their 1998 honeymoon, in fact, was to a chainsaw contest in Doniphan.)
Mantle first used a cross-cut saw as early as age 7, helping his father. Some area Mennonites still use cross-cut saws.
The Russellville events will draw competitors from California, Eldon, Linn, Versailles and other surrounding communities.
“A lot of people will gather around; people are curious,” Mantle said of the festival.
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