Wood carvers roar into Logs to Frogs competition

The works of nine carvers will be judged and auctioned off starting at 1 p.m.

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Under the blistering summer sun, wood chips and sawdust fly as carver Jim Haskett chainsaws away at a large carving of a porcupine treed by a cougar during open carving time Saturday morning at Milton-Freewater's annual Logs to Frogs competition.

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Aviator sunglasses reflecting his work in progress, Walla Walla chainsaw carver Chip Lowell pilots his saw around a log during the morning carving session.

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Covered in sawdust, carver Tyler Strauslin of Eugene sizes up a delicate cut early in the carving process Saturday morning.

MILTON-FREEWATER - As the noon cease-work horn blew on Saturday, most of this year's Logs to Frogs entries were starting to take on a recognizable shape.

There was a bear with a salmon in its mouth, an Aslan-looking lion, an eagle with a fish, a heron with a fish, a sea turtle, a bench with a frog - the only frog so far in the competition - and a Polynesian theme that was hard to tell what it was going to be. But it did include a palm made of blue spruce.

And then there were the mysteries that still needed to be carved from the behemoth logs that were donated by Boise Cascade.

"I can see this is a bear right here climbing up a tree. But there is something on top that I can't figure out yet," said Lauretta Headding of Walla Walla as she watched the log carving competition for the first time.

"I always wanted to come all the time but we always missed the date," she said.

So on Saturday she and husband Orville sat and watched Jim Haskett of Butte, Mont., carve that bear climbing a tree. But it turns out it wasn't a bear.

Like most carvers, Haskett was reluctant to let anyone know what he was creating.

"It's going to be finished tomorrow," Haskett said firmly. But then he smiled about his unwillingness to tell and added "it's just terrible," referring to the suspense.

Apparently the suspense was even too terrible for Haskett because he broke his rule and revealed that the bear climbing a tree was actually a cougar chasing a porcupine. As for the quills, those he would add tomorrow - "toothpicks."

In the next booth, the only local competitor also didn't want to reveal his carving ahead of time. Chip Lowell of Walla Walla explained how at a Friday night carver's dinner two years ago he made the mistake of having loose lips and telling fellow carvers what he was making.

"I told everyone I was doing a horse and the whole lineup did horses," Lowell said.

So Lowell didn't tell at Friday night's dinner, but he did listen. And when he heard that a few of the carvers were doing cougars, he though he would top them off by carving the king of cats, a male lion with mane.

Nine carvers entered this year's competition, which is down half from last year. But Logs to Frogs Committee Chairwoman Kathy Voorhies explained that last year's numbers were unusual.

"Last year was an anomaly. There were almost too many. We were hoping it was going to stop at 18 because we were running out of room," Voorhies said, and added that a dozen is about average.

Another thing missing at this year's competition is the official pink Logs to Frogs T-shirt, which was a show of support for the fight against breast cancer. But not many of the chainsaw-wielding, sawdust- and sweat-covered men were willing to wear the hot pink shirts.

"The carvers groused a little bit about that, so we kind of changed that up a bit," Voorhies said.

Just a little bit, from hot pink to tie-dye dayglo orange. There still weren't many competitors wearing the shirt. The second day of Logs to Frogs takes place today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. A quick-carve competition will begin at 1 p.m. Judging will be from 1-3:30 p.m. The auction starts at 3 p.m. Logs to Frogs is free to the public and takes place near the intersection of Highway 11 and South Columbia Avenue.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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