When David Moses reaches me by phone he sounds gruff and unlike a man with a mohawk. "I hear you're trying to get a hold of me," he says at the end of the other line in Virginia, where the Snoqualmie native is readying himself for the STIHL Timbersports Series Championships this weekend.
"He's the only one I trusted to teach me," says Moses.
Apparently the lessons stuck. With two decades of competitive lumberjacking under his belt, Moses took first place in the regional Western Qualifier earlier this spring, earning a trip to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. and the Great Smoky Mountain Lumberjack Feud. Here, June 1-3, 20 of the top lumberjack athletes in the country will do battle--with the winner earning an invitation to the STIHL Timbersports World Championships in Lillehammer, Norway this September.
This weekend competitors will compete in six historic lumberjack disciplines, including flannel-ready events like the hot saw, the springboard chop, the standing block chop, the stock saw and the underhand chop.
Moses says the springboard chop is his favorite.
"It's the most challenging he says," like most lumberjacks, presumably, a man of few words. "I have the most fun with it."
While many have seen a lumberjack competition while flipping through TV channels, or perhaps even witnessed one in person in a town like Morton (home to the annual Morton Loggers Jubilee), few appreciate what the life of a competitive lumberjack is really like. Moses says he competes in 12-16 mostly regional events each year, and, if all goes as planned, takes home enough in prize money to help balance out the lean times in the tile business he runs with his wife. Moses says in the past he competed in 20-24 events a year, but that number was whittled down when the economy tanked and a handful of competitions ceased to be.
Moses says big-time competitions--like this weekend's STIHL Timbersports Series Championships--usually offers a payout to the winner around $600. A smaller competition, like the Sequim Irrigation Festival for example, might offer a payout closer to $50 and a pat on the back.
"It covers gas money," Moses says.
In other words, these are not rich, pampered athletes.
But, judging by Moses, they are serious about their sport.
With a training spot near the old Weyerhaeuser mill on Snoqualmie Ridge, and having put in countless hours in preparation for this weekend's U.S. Championships, Moses says he's ready to achieve competitive lumberjacking greatness. While he was close to making it to the finals in 2011, Moses believes the time he's put in this year will help put him over the top.
"Really good," Moses says when asked to assess his chances. "As long as I keep doing what I've been doing, I'll be fine."
Moses reflects back, noting it took him 12 years to even get "pretty good" at competitive lumberjacking. Now in his 20th year competing he says he's "right up there with the big boys."
Perhaps surprisingly, Moses believes the cross-training he did in preparation for this season may be the difference. You have to be "in fairly good shape," he says (with a hint of humor) of the physical requirements of competitive lumberjacking.
"It's hours of preparation for a few seconds of glory," Moses says of the work that goes into his sport.
"If you get the glory."