Lumberjacking Family

WEBSTER SPRINGS, W.Va. — You could call them the “First Family of Lumberjack Sports.”  The Cogar Family of Webster County has been active in lumberjack competitions for four generations and the rich history continues.

This week, Arden Cogar Jr, his cousin Matt Cogar, and his uncle Paul Cogar who is Matt’s father, will travel to Germany to compete in the Stihl Timbersports World Championships.  The three family members are part of the five member U.S. Team.  Matt is this year’s U.S. Timbersports Champion, dethroning his cousin Arden.

“He’s 26 and only going to get stronger,” said Arden. “I’m only getting older.”

However, age doesn’t matter in the world of lumber jacking.  Arden Cogar, Senior at the age of 80 recently competed in the wood chopping events at the Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins and placed in three events.

“It’s work,” said Arden Junior. “If you can physically work, you can physically perform lumberjack sports.”

Cogar Jr. is a lawyer in Charleston, but he spends several hours every day working his body and resting his mind.

“I sit on my behind all day and I can’t wait to get home to hit something that can’t hit me back,” he said. “I’m on the phone, I’m in court arguing with people and you get a certain level of frustration.  There’s nothing like being able to enjoy something that is strenuous and mind numbing. It’s a wonderful release at the end of a work day.”

Paul Cogar doesn’t need to go home and chop wood, he does it every morning when his laces up his boots and heads out the door with dinner bucket in hand.  Paul is an independent logger who still cuts timber every day, runs the skidder to take it to the landing, and loads the logs on trucks.  At 56, he’s still in fantastic shape and competes at the highest level.

Matt, 26, of Cross Lanes is coming on strong and looks to carry the family name well into the future.  The graduate of Glenville State College spends his days working at the gun counter of Gander Mountain in Charleston, but like his cousin, his evenings are somewhere swinging an ax or sawing a log.

“My neighbors get a little upset when I fire up my ‘hot saw’,” he laughed in an appearance on Ram Trucks West Virginia Outdoors. “It takes dedication and I really enjoy it.”

The idea of competition in logging skills dates back more than 100 years when hardened men lived in the lumber camps in the state’s highest elevations and would rest on Sunday. Instead of playing cards or taking a nap, they’d argue about who was best with a saw or an axe.

“You’re talking tough men who liked to drink,” Arden explained. “When they got drunk, they wanted to see who the toughest one was.”

Eventually, the competition gained some rules and organization and all of the camp champions would meet for the Rhododendron Festival in Webster County.  The event ended with World War II, but the competition eventually resumed at the Mountain State Forest Festival. Arden Cogar Senior went there in 1956 and won after three tries. Since then, the competition has been in the family blood.  ESPN vaulted the sport to a new level and now, with Stihl power equipment and Ram Trucks as leading sponsors, the competitions are a world wide spectacle.

Arden Junior said the secret is knowing what you’re doing. It only takes a weak mind and strong back to chop wood, but that won’t get you out of the woods. A sharp mind and strong back will have the making of a champion.

“It’s kind of like golf, you can hit it hard, but if you don’t hit it right the ball will go all over the place,”  he explained. “We can drive an axe in all the way to the handle just because we know how to place the axe on the log, how to contort our body in a manner to get the most acceleration on the axe, and we now how to put our body in a position to allow the axe to efficiently and effectively go into the log itself.”

They’ll use those skills to represent West Virginia and the United States in Germany next week.

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