LRCC Conservation Journal

by Fallon Queeney

June 23, 2022

“Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln

Never in my life had I laid a finger on an axe until serving with the Lakes Region Conservation Corps (LRCC). In this world of modern technology and leaving the ways of the past. . .well, in the past, I figured the days of using the traditional axe were gone, but the US Forest Service proved otherwise. These modern day lumberjacks and their nicest flannels showed us novice folk everything having to do with axes; from safety, to sharpening, and to the fun part: chopping.

The aforementioned Honest Abe quote rings true to this nickname, as I spent a good chunk of my day sharpening my axe with this quote dancing circles within my brain. Sharpening an axe brings one to such a trance-like, meditative state that even the eldest monks would be jealous. While in this zen state my senses were heightened and my attention to detail was piqued. One must be mindful of everything. Listen to the specific tune the file makes when strumming the axe, if the notes are off, start from the top and play the tune again until the notes are so beautiful that the axe starts to shed delicate metallic tears. Both faces of the axe must be equally serenaded before reaching the roaring applause of the forest. Taking pride in the performance and art of sharpening is paramount, you will only get from the axe what it receives.

After snapping out of my sharpening trance, it was time to switch my consciousness over to battleaxe* woman* mentality. Wood chips flying towards my eyes (behind goggles, of course) never felt so good. I was serving Paul Bunyon realness and it gave me an empowering adrenaline rush like I’ve never felt before. Hype around cutting a tree in half has been well concealed, because if I knew how good this accomplishment would feel, I would have asked Santa for an axe years and years ago. I am so grateful for the US Forest Service, some of these fields are thought to be strictly male dominated, and seeing women leading this workshop made me so strong, proud, safe, and confident.

In just over a month of serving with LRCC I have learned so much. Aside from the ins and outs of axes, I have gained knowledge in trail work, erosion control, all of the different types of ticks and the diseases they carry and how to safely remove them so you do not contract said diseases, so many types of life jackets, red right returning, backcountry first aid essentials, checking a spine, how to mouse-proof a home, and sort of how to use a wood stove. If I learned all of this in just a few weeks, I cannot begin to imagine what other knowledge I will accumulate in the coming months. So far, serving with LRCC has been a rewarding, challenging, and an empowering experience, and I am looking forward to more lessons to come.