Women find niche in woodsman’s competition

Posted Oct. 07, 2011, at 5 a.m.

FRYEBURG, Maine — Laurette Russell decided after showing horses for 20 years, she needed something else to fuel her competitive fire. So she started entering woodsman’s competitions.

“Throwing an axe at a bull’s-eye and chopping a piece of wood is very satisfying,” said Russell of New Gloucester. “There’s no cookie-cutter type of person to do it. It’s not like when you’re an ice skater, you’re a tiny little ballerina. Anyone of any size, of any age, can do this sport.”

Russell was one of 39 women in a field of 193 people at this year’s Woodsman’s Field Day held at Fryeburg Fair. The daylong event attracted more than 6,000 spectators.

Many of the male competitors make their living in the woods, but few of the women do. One who perhaps comes closest is artist Allison Melton, 27, of Bangor. The graduate student at the University of Maine in Orono took up the sport as an undergraduate and now spends her summers working as a “Timber Tina” at the Great Maine Lumberjack Show in Trenton.

Marian Colbert, a 69-year-old from Winsted, Conn., said hitting the bull’s-eye with a double-sided axe from a distance of 20 feet takes lots of practice.

“We have a set-up in our barn. I’ll throw maybe 40, 50 throws a day,” she said after winning the women’s division with a score of 21 out of a possible 25 points.

LaVonne Mikloiche of Vandling, Pa., is a high school lunch lady who competes in several events around the country each year. Before each meet, she applies some flashy paint to her fingernails.

“They make me feel feminine in this masculine event. You don’t want people to think you’re a lumberjack,” she said.