Person of the Week
Logging Sports Entertainer
My life has evolved from being fun, to making money, to promoting women in sports, and now it’s not just for the joy of serving others, but for being me, being alive on this earth, right now. This is the best thing that you can do for yourself — make a happy life for yourself. In that way you also end up serving and making a happy life for others.
1. What led you to the mission of being a logging sports entertainer?
I grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin called Hayward. It is the home of the Lumberjack World Championships. My mom and dad had six children. I was the youngest. There were six children under the age of seven, when my father left. It was pretty amazing. My mom was this champion who wanted us to do as much as we could. Logging lessons were in town and she signed the bottom four of us up for logging lessons. We would walk three miles almost every day to the place where we had our lessons – even if we didn’t have lessons. We wanted to go because almost all our friends were down there hanging out. We got really good at log rolling because we were there all the time. (To see an interview with Tina, click here.)
Then we started doing little exhibitions – the four little log rolling kids. I would joke and tell people that we were the “Von Trapp Family” of log rollers. Then we started chopping and sawing. People were coming from around the world to compete. In the past, log rollers usually just log rolled and choppers just chopped, and then there were speed climbers. Well, we started doing a little bit of all of these sports because we were hanging out there so much.
We decided to start a family lumberjack show. That was when I was about eighteen or nineteen. We put together a show where we owned property in Wisconsin. We charged admission to get in and do an hour long show. We turned our knowledge and abilities into entertainment. This was pretty much just self-driven. We were just a bunch of little kids who just knew we liked to chop and saw. Then we tried to figure out how we could make money doing it all. There were other groups doing this on the west coast and the east coast, but there were not any groups doing this where we were.
I worked with my family for fifteen years. At that time, there were no women’s events for logging sports, so I started promoting women’s logging sports competitions. I literally started the women’s competition at the Lumberjack World Championships. The first year they only had women’s underhand chopping and cross cut sawing. I did the promotion for it and got the prize money – myself. I got women to come. They didn’t really allow us to be a part of the regular men’s competition times. We had to do it in the morning and before the big competitions.
So I provided the prize money for the first three years. Then it took off on the second year. After that it became a part of the show. After working with my family for fifteen years, I broke off on my own and went to Maine and bought thirty-five acres of land. (To find out more about Tina’s Maine Lumberjack Show, click here.)
2. What does this mission mean to you?
This mission is all I have ever done. I can’t imagine doing anything else, so I guess it means everything to me. It’s gone in different phases. In the beginning log rolling was just for fun. Then it turned into travel and making money. Then it became – “wait a minute, we have to establish this and make sure women have their role!” Then I lost my son (Charlie 16) in an automobile accident and then it became a struggle to go to work. Because of this loss, logging was the only thing I had at that point. That was what kept me going – to go do shows. Because of the business, I felt like I had to get up every day and go to work – even though I was going through this loss. Looking back, the work made it helpful to keep going.
Now my mission has turned into an opportunity not only provide for myself, but other people. The people who work for me, love logging sports. I’m at the point where competition doesn’t matter so much any more, but it’s about doing the shows and doing what I love to do every day and making money at it. I’m also at the phase that I want to enjoy my life everywhere I go and really just explore the world. I feel really lucky this is my job.
In order for people to understand me, they have to know that my son died tragically in an accident. I wanted everyone to know about him. It is the only way I can keep him alive. His name was Charlie. He log rolled in the show with me. He chopped. He chain sawed. That’s a hole that will never be filled. But, that hole may not need to be filled. When you lose a child, it’s unbearable. But you can take something unbearable and you can become better because of it.
I believe in a higher power and that there is life after death. I believe in heaven and believe that Charlie is there. He is helping me here. He is a guardian angel. I know people who couldn’t go on after they lost children – and they even died. I have chosen to grasp who Charlie was and who he is and embrace all parts of life – good and bad. Would I change it if I could? I would exchange any experience I’ve had to get him back. But I can’t. There are some things you can’t change. You have to figure out how to go forward. It isn’t getting past it, it is moving through life – going forward, living.
3. What was your best day as a logging sports entertainer?
That would be hard because I think about the days in logging sports AND what logging sports brought me in life. One day I was eating kudu fondue by a hippo pond in Africa. This was part of my pay to be log rolling in Africa. How funny is that? (Kudu is a wild game deer.)
We were in South Africa and we did a show in Johannesburg. We did it on a weekend and we had four days off. Then we came back up and did another weekend. Part of our pay in Africa was to go on a safari. There were about ten of us over there – my mom, my brothers, sisters, and some other lumber jacks. Here we are doing this amazing thing and at a game reserve. We saw lions, leopards, and elephants, but the thing that struck me was that we were eating kudu fondue by the hippo pond, in the afternoon, in order to relax. All because you log roll! Really!? Ok. This is pretty cool.
One day I was riding a horse and sheep herding in Tasmania off of Australia. I was log rolling there and I had met some people who were sheep ranchers.
Another time, I won the silver medal in the Great Outdoor Games on ESPN. No one expected me to make it past the first round. I made it to the finals. One day in Australia, I won the Jack and Jill Cross Cut Saw competition with my partner who is now deceased. Another time I was at Michelle’s Breast Cancer Resource Center because I am a log roller and I got picked for the show Survivor.
My best day might not have been the act of doing logging sports entertainment directly. Because I’m a logging sports entertainer, I’ve done some incredible things indirectly as a result. For instance, what makes me happy is seeing women’s competition thriving. Another example is that I am able to volunteer on the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race in Alaska. This is because I am a log roller. I got connected to the Iditarod because I’m a log roller! How cool is that? It seems like one thing or everything leads to another, but it is all connected back to log rolling.
4. What was your worst day as a logging sports entertainer?
The worst day in my whole life was when I lost my son. To me it was losing my other half. When you lose and event – like a competition – like when I was on Survivor, I was voted off first.
When I went on the TV show Survivor, I knew that one person was was going to take first, one person was going to take second, one person was going to take third, and eventually someone was going to take last. To me, every time you go into a competition, there is always first place. But for me I’ve always taken joy and pleasure in knowing that I can go and compete. So losing never bothered me. Losing wouldn’t be the worst day. I’m competing — that is real pleasure.
Losing life is a worst day. People close to me have passed on and this to me is the worst day – losing the love of people I’ve known. When you lose someone, it’s as if your life is gone. But in fact your life is not gone.
Here’s what I mean. Before I had Charlie, my son, I was a person. I was alive. My life was worth living. Then I had him and life got even better. Then suddenly I didn’t have him. He died in an accident. It took a long time to realize I still had life – a long time to realize that “Tina” was still worth carrying on.
There was one time after I lost Charlie that I thought, “I really completely want to die.” I didn’t have a plan for suicide or anything like that. I just felt like I did not want to live without him. That feeling went away when the phone rang and it was a friend of mine who called to talk about Charlie. That feeling came and it went and I realized that you have to carry on. It is selfish to think that someone else could take away your joy. This doesn’t mean that my son was not important to me. But even after his death I realized I still had a reason for being alive – a purpose.
The things that I have done since I lost him have been amazing. I have done some really amazing thing. I realized that life must be about me now. That doesn’t mean my life is not serving purpose for others – because that is what I do. What it means is that my life has evolved from being fun, to making money, to promoting women in sports, and now it’s not just for the joy of serving others, but for being me, being alive on this earth, right now. This is the best thing that you can do for yourself — make a happy life for yourself. In that way you also end up serving and making a happy life for others.
5. How did you survive your worst day?
I believe that it is higher power. I believe it is God. Everyone says, “Oh there is a reason for everything!” This is true. Even when I am at my lowest point like when my personal relationships hit the skids, or a job hits the skids, I am always able to go back and go, “I get it now”. But you have to go through this period of hurting or wondering and going through the motions. When you get to the other side, you get it. I don’t understand losing my child, Charlie. I can’t understand that. But I also don’t believe it is for me to understand right now. My responsibility of having life inside of me is to carry on because I’ve been given life.
I’ve done all these TV shows or have been approached about doing a reality show about being a lumberjill. There was a time that I might have wanted all this attention. I love the fact that I am being called. I love doing this and I love doing that. But if no one ever called me again, that would be fine too. Wherever life goes, that is fine. I choose to have faith that what’s going to happen, will happen. (You can see what’s happening at our Facebook page and our website page.)
Everyone should pick something that they like doing. Sometimes people look for too much out of life. Sometimes they think that they should be handed everything. But we are supposed to work. It’s called work. It’s not all roses. The “not” being roses part is what I like about life the most. Getting down and dirty can be the best part of life.
You should just pick something you really like and go for it. If it doesn’t work, go on to the next thing. Don’t think this is a failure, because if you tried, you’ve at least tried. I tell everyone just be the best you can be.