“Timber” Tina Scheer: A Resilient Lumberjill Who Refuses To Fall Down

“Timber” Tina Scheer: A Resilient Lumberjill Who Refuses To Fall Down

“Timber” Tina Scheer

A Resilient Lumberjill Who Refuses To Fall Down

As told to Alisha Goslin

It certainly was the most defining moment of my life. I was getting ready to go on Survivor. I was 3 years post-divorce. We were doing a show in Kansas City and the girls (I was touring with Ax Women at the time) said, Tina, send in a tape! They won’t pick me, I thought. I sent a tape of myself cross cut sawing, chopping, and log rolling. I sent it in overnight because I was that late. They called me that night. Tina, this is Sara from Survivor. What took you so long to send in a tape?!  I thought to myself, which one of my friends is pranking me? Then, Baby, Charlie’s dog, barked. She asked, Is that Baby? I was like oh, my God; this is really her! She said, Is it all right if we talk? Is Charlie home? I said, Yes, he’s home downstairs in his bedroom. 

He was really excited. So, you go from completely on top of the world, then crashing down to the lowest point. I don’t think I will ever have a low that low again.  There will never be a low that low again. My mother passed last year. That wasn’t as bad. It will just never be that bad. The worst for me is over. Now, I just have to carry on.  

I’ve had different stages of losing him. It took me a few years to get back on my feet. I was in Alaska, looking at Mt. McKinley, about 5 years afterwards. I had his dog with me. I was training a friend’s dogs for running the Iditarod. I was there for 6 weeks. Took the Pomeranian to a mushing dog lodge. We were at McKinley, Baby, and me. I was like, Charlie, look at us! We are here! I said, I am going to release you. I am going to start caring about my life. Because I am someone’s child. I’m a sister, I’m a cousin, I’m a niece, I’m a friend. It was time. 

One of the things I tell the kids when they work here performing in the lumberjack show is you have to be the same every night. They have to act like it’s the first time they’re doing it. The cool thing is, I feel so happy going out every night. It’s that joyful for me. I tell them, the person sitting in the bleachers most likely has never seen the show before. And if they have, they’re back because they loved it. It’s interesting because now that I’ve been here 27 years, I’m getting people who are coming with their children, saying that their parents brought them when they were kids. Which does not make me feel old. It makes me feel grateful that I’ve been here this long! I’ve made it this long, and people who enjoyed coming here when they were younger are now bringing their kids and grandkids. 

I’m the 6th child of six kids. I was born in November of 1960, and my father left us in 1961. My mother had six children under seven years old when my dad left. Anybody who thinks they have parental problems, that ain’t nothing. Six children under seven years old and no father. Back then, women were the ones who were shunned for having been left. And then he didn’t give us a lot of money.

No, he didn’t help my mother at all. We didn’t see him much. He totally favored his male children, my brothers. Towards the end of his life, I had been up in Maine for years. Two of my brothers have lumberjack shows, one in Alaska, one in Wisconsin. My brother in Alaska had left after me, but my dad had been there several times. He would say, I’m coming to Maine, and I’m going to come and see your show. I looked at him one day and I said, dad, you’ve been to Robert’s show. You’ve been to my brother’s show three times, and you’ve never been to Maine. Quit telling me that you’re coming to Maine, because you’re never coming to me. And he never came to me. That’s all you need to know about him. I mean, you can’t choose what you’re born into. So, when people ask, how did you get into logging sports? Was your dad into it? No, it’s all my mom.

It was all my mom, but it was all my mom because she worked all the time and log rolling lessons at History Land were free, and we could stay there all day. Anybody that was involved with History Land who hears about it gets warm fuzzies because it was one of the coolest places to grow up. There was no babysitter needed. We had a log rolling log, and we got really good at it. We spent all of our summer days with our friends log rolling. In our late teens, we decided to start a lumberjack show. And that’s what we did.

The place we log rolled was the home of the Lumberjack World Championships. The guy who built all of it started the competition. He was an entrepreneur of epic proportions. He invited guys from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US. and then eventually Europe, China and Japan to come and compete in this event. Our town was famous for this, but you can only see it one weekend a year or kids log rolling all summer. We were like, well, what if we chopped and sawed all summer? So, we asked the guy, can we do chopping and sawing and do shows here? He answered yes.

We did shows there for one summer and then we went to another property and built our own bleachers and our own ticket booth and did shows there. That guy eventually lost the property, and we went back to the original spot. Now, I have one brother who owns the restaurant and shops and the log rolling dock where the Lumberjack World Championships are. We eventually bought it, which is super powerful. It was all mom. We started our own show and then thought, what if we went on the road? We bought a truck and trailer, and our mother was our booking agent.

There’s nothing like having your mom as your booking agent. She was so proud! We got CDLs to drive this truck and trailer around the country with big huge speed climbing trees on it. I worked there for 15 years, and then I decided that I was going to go on my own. I came to Maine and bought the property. 

My mother took us on vacation here when we were little kids. We had a pop up camper. She had hardly any resources. She worked at the local hospital in the X-ray lab, but we didn’t have anything. She had this attitude that we could do anything with nothing. I emulate her daily. We went to Quebec. Then we came to Bar Harbor, and then went to Boston and Cape Cod, Niagara Falls, and back home. I thought, I’m going to go back to Maine. 

So, I bought the property. Then I called my brothers and asked for a meeting. The day before the meeting, my brother offered me a management position. I looked at him and I said, I’m sorry, I quit. I just bought 35 acres of land in Maine, and I’m going to start my own show.  He looked at me and said,  I’ll help you however I can.

The next year, I started my own all women roadshow called Chics with Axes. I’ve been promoting women in the sport my whole life. I had the Jack and Jill cross cut sawing started at the Lumberjack World Championships. That was the first. There was women’s log rolling, but that was it. A great Australian mentor of mine went to the board of directors and asked, why don’t we have women’s and men’s cross cut saw mixed doubles? They agreed to do it. I then approached them for having women’s underhand chopping and cross cut sawing. They said we don’t have time in the show. I said we’ll do it in the morning. They said, we don’t have wood. I said, I’ll get the wood. They said, we don’t have the money. I said, I’ll get the money. They turned me down twice. I went back, and then they said yes. I wrote letters to all of the women I knew who were competing at the colleges. I said, if you don’t come this year, it could be our last. That very first year, we had more women cross cut sawyers than ever because I asked them all to come. That went on for one or two years. In the fourth year, it was so popular that they put the women on the poster and in the afternoon show. Then they asked me for money. I said, you’re on your own, you’ve got sponsors. I’m not giving you money this year. I’ve accomplished what I was hoping to accomplish. Now, the women’s events are just as popular, and it’s grown so much over the years. 

Over 20 years ago, I went to Sydney, Australia to compete in the Royal Sydney Show in the men’s wood shop. They had accepted my application. The first time I chopped, they announced, Bob on stand one, Sam on stand two, Greg on stand four, and Tina on stand eight. Wait, that’s a woman!? Over the loudspeaker! I just turned around and shook my little booty and chopped my log. I finished every log I had. Men came up to me afterwards and said, in Australia, you only take the top two in each heat. Guy five, six and seven told me that they would normally walk off their log and not finish because they weren’t going to make it. They said we had to finish it because you were there. I did beat a couple of guys, but that wasn’t the point. I didn’t want to chop against a man. I wanted to chop against a woman. I would say to the guys, I want to chop against your mom, your girlfriend, your wife, your sister, your aunt, but I can’t, so I have to chop against you.

I had sent out press releases before I left. I would walk into the wood shop, which was the biggest wood shop in the world. The show manager would come up and tell me, there’s a TV station here for you. They didn’t want to talk to the world champion. They wanted to talk to that chic from America who was here chopping. Who’s that crazy bird? I had been over there previously, cross cut sawing and ax throwing. I’m the only woman at that point that made it into the men’s ax sawing finals. They hosted a women’s wood chop the next year, and I’ve never been back. I’m thinking I’ll make my comeback one day. But I don’t need to be there now. I just wanted women chopping to be. That was the point. To be included. So, it’s going swimmingly now.

I announced the Steel Trimmer Sports series for 15 years. The organizers finally added women’s timber sports a couple of years ago. They were a bit slower than most, but they’re catching up. That is a competition that I haven’t been to for a while. Sometimes, I think about things before Charlie and after Charlie. He’s been gone 17 years. So, it was over 17 years ago.

I went to the Women’s World Championship in New York. They did a contest on Saturday for women and Sunday for men. The organizers sold tickets and they filled the bleachers on Saturday. They filled the bleachers on Sunday, and they paid women half prize money! At a meeting with the girls. I said,here’s what we need to do. Everybody enters, and two days before, say you’re not coming unless we get equal prize money. Immediately, you’re going to get equal prize money. Because the amount was so stupidly low. There’s very little prize money in our sports. Immediately, they would have matched it. Or we say two days before, we want half price gas, half price hotels, and half price taxes. What the hell are you people thinking? You’re filling the bleachers with paying customers but giving us half the amount of money?

 I could not talk any of the women into it. There was a couple who said they’re going to be mad. I said,  you’re so wrong. They’re going to lose all that revenue and those filled bleachers. If you don’t come here, they’re going to lose it all. Realize your value. I never went back there again. To this day, they still might be paying out half. I don’t know. The last time I checked on it, they were not matching it. 

When I went to compete in Australia, I had one guy tell me that I was making a mockery of the sport. I own a lumberjack show in the United States, I’m flying to Australia to compete, and I’m making a mockery? This is how I make my money. How do I make a mockery of this? I teach people about this because it is amazing! There’s a funny side note to that story and the guy that said that to me. This was when Charlie was alive. The guy came to the United States to compete at the Lumberjack World Championships in my hometown. Charlie and I were living in Wisconsin at the time, but I would move here for four months to run the show. My house there was vacant during the summer, and I had certain friends I would let stay there. Two lumberjacks from Australia came over to compete at the World Championships in my hometown, and one of them asked to stay. He asked if he could bring a friend. I said, who is it? I’m not going to say his name, but for this story, we’ll call him Lumberjack A. And I said, yes, that would be fine if he came to stay at my house. It was the same guy that told me I was making a mockery of the sport.

I told Charlie about it. I flew home that weekend from Maine to watch Charlie compete, and to compete as well. The guys and Charlie and I were staying at the house. Charlie and I were leaving in the morning to go because he had a log roll early in the day. They asked me, is there anything we can do for you while you’re gone? I said, well, you know what? I haven’t been home, you could mow the lawn. They said they’d be happy to mow my lawn. So, Charlie and I are pulling out of the driveway, and the guy who told me I was making mockery of the sport, was mowing my lawn, and my son said to me as we’re pulling out, isn’t that ironic, mom? He told you you’re making a mockery of the sport and now he’s mowing your lawn. I never get mad at guys like that. You just keep going for what you want. That’s all that matters. Don’t condemn people or cut them down. Just point out why you want what you want and why you should get what you want. That’s all that matters. 

I was chosen for Survivor because I am a lumberjill. It’s also how I got on Ultimate Survival Alaska National Geographic. I was in National Geographic Magazine, in 1976/1977, I think.  It was about wild and scenic rivers. I keep finding them at old antique stores. If they have a pile of National Geographic, I scroll through to find one. Nat Geo had wanted log rolling pictures. They actually called the house for my older brother and sister, but they were gone for the day. So, they got my other brother and me. It slightly shows my brother falling before me. It was pretty cool because it looks like I’m winning. 

When I went on National Geographic Ultimate Survival Alaska, one of the heads of Nat Geo called me right before I was selected for the show. I’m sitting in Hancock, Maine, on the phone with this guy, and I’m convincing him why he needs me for this show. I said, why are you considering me? He said, if you get through Mark (Brunette, producer of Survivor) you’re going to pass through me. I asked, did you know I was in National Geographic magazine 30 years ago? He said, no, I had no idea. I said, I was, in the 1970’s, wild and scenic rivers. I told him, it’s about time you called me back!

I had already been on Survivor when I applied for that show. I have friends in Alaska from the State Fair. I ran into an old log rolling friend of mine who runs a checkpoint at the Iditarod and he tells me, you should volunteer. I answered, don’t tell me you’re going to let me come unless you mean it, because I’m there! That was in September, and in November, I booked my ticket. The following March, I got on a plane from Maine, and I went to Anchorage. 

I became really good friends with a girl who was running the Iditarod that year. She was from Ketchikan. I told her I have a brother who has a business in Ketchikan. She asked what business is that? I told her, the lumberjack show. She said our signature YoHo! That sealed the deal. We’ve been friends ever since. The second year, I went up to Alaska, and spent six weeks training dogs with her. We lived in a little 12 x 15 cabin with a loft with one bed. She and I and my little Pomeranian, Charlie’s dog. I scooped poop, fed the dogs, helped her harness and unharness.

On Facebook, people were writing on her page that she should apply for the show on National Geographic. I’m reading these posts back here in Maine, and I’m like, I wish I lived in Alaska. I’d apply for that show. I realized you don’t have to live in Alaska to apply for the show, Tina. I went online and I sent in an application. It took 10 minutes. I did it in the back of my car on my phone on my way to the New York Times travel show. A couple of weeks later, I’m back in Maine, and I get a phone call from Jeff Probst studios. He had a talk show for a year or two. He asked, can you come on my show? Of course, I will. So, I shrink wrapped an ax and target. Viking Lumber did it for me, and then we screwed two handles in so it could be like a suitcase. I set the target in my luggage.

Two days before I was going to be on the Jeff Probst Show, my phone rang. I answered, and the guy said, hi, Tina, this is so and so from Nat Geo. I asked, where did you say you’re calling me from? He replied, L.A. I said, and this is one of my favorites, I’ll be out there on Tuesday doing the Jeff Probst Show. Do you want me to stop in? He said, you’re coming out here? Yup, I flew to L.A. The Jeff Probst Show had a car for me. I dropped my luggage, my ax and target, checked in the hotel and talked to the studio. I said, I have an appointment. Went out, got a cab, went over to Nat Geo Studios, filmed a demo reel of an application, took a cab back, and then did the Jeff Probst Show, which I threw a bullseye on. Then, I got on a plane and flew home. And then, I got picked and I flew to Anchorage, for Nat Geo.

That was only the second summer I was planning on being gone all summer from my lumberjack show. The first summer was when I was picked for Survivor. I was picked for Survivor and ten days before I left, Charlie got in the accident. So, this was the second summer I was going to be gone. I got to Anchorage and the first night, we had a meet and greet, and it was me and eleven men. I couldn’t believe it. There were a couple of guys there who didn’t want me there because I wasn’t Alaskan. I wasn’t what they thought someone on that show should be. Ultimate Survival Alaska. Well, the show wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and anybody who was on the show would agree. But, if you’re going to be surviving somewhere, why wouldn’t you be a woman from Maine and Wisconsin? Who had done a lumberjack show and lived through losing her only child? Why not me? I’m like, did you hear everything I’ve already survived through? Three quarters of the crew were really good to me. The other twenty five percent, not so much. I didn’t know I’d be the only woman. I thought it’d be six and six or something. I wrote a will before I went on that show, but it wasn’t quite as deadly as I thought it was going to be. 

Two years ago, Gordon Ramsay came here. I was weed whacking and felt the vibration of the phone in my pocket ringing. I answer, and it’s Gordon Ramsay’s people. I’m like, holy crap, this is going to be fun!  He came here and we had a blast. He’s got a huge production team. He cross cut, axed, I taught him how to chain saw, and then one of my guys taught him how to speed climb. We had a blast.

The first van pulls up with all production equipment. The second van and the third van pull up, and then right before they start to film is when the sedan pulls up with Gordon Ramsay. I was the only one allowed to take my mask off because we were going to be on TV. He walked right over, threw his arms around me and said, this is so great! He was genuinely interested in me owning a lumberjack show. He said, so tell me about how you ended up here. It was really cool. His producer sent me an email afterwards. She said he got in the car to leave, and he looked at her and said, where did you find her? Out in the woods of Maine, that’s right.

I was here getting ready for Survivor when Charlie passed in a car accident. He was with his father. He was going to spend the summer there because I was going to be gone. He was at a school event, and they had tornado warnings and they kept the kids at the school event. Then they let them go. There was a freak torrential five minute downpour and Charlie was driving home. He hydroplaned into another car.

The gal who was in the other car remembers seeing him. She remembers his hair before they hit. She saw his hair. That’s a killer for me because I loved his hair. She and I have become friends. He could have killed them. And she has become my friend. She’s a Survivor fanatic who did not watch the episode that I was on. I was only in one episode. But she didn’t watch it that night. She ran into a friend the next day on the street. The friend asked her, did you watch Survivor last night? She said no. Her friend told her, you need to watch it. She asked why? Because the mother of the child was on Survivor. I wrote his name in the sand and talked about losing Charlie privately, not in front of the other contestants. 

I was here when I got the call and I lost it. I was psychotic. When you’re in one place and someone is telling you that in another place your child is gone, it’s like, somebody needs to get me to that place. I was calling people telling them they have to send their private planes. I finally got the first plane out. I couldn’t believe it. Until I see it, I’m not going to believe it. You’re all lying to me. My phone was ringing off the hook. I got on a plane, I flew home, and it was so weird. One of the things I remember about flying home is when I got off the plane my brother was standing at the gate. They don’t let people come to the gate. You’re supposed to be outside of security now. I said, what are you doing here? Tina, I told them that I needed to be here, he told me. Then I drove home, a three hour drive, and the one thing I needed to do was go to his father. Talk about ending any anger or anything.

Nobody wanted to let me drive alone. I got to my house and there were cars lined up everywhere, and there were people in the yard. I was like, oh, my God, this is happening to me right now. It didn’t even seem real.  It was horrible. Everybody that I knew was there. They all knew I was flying in, and they all wanted to be there, but it was horrible for me. 

Then we went to the funeral home, and that was when I realized it was real. I think the worst moment, besides seeing him in the funeral home for the first time, was putting him in the ground. During the time that we were at the funeral home, they said, you leave before we put him in the ground. I said, no, no, you’re putting him in the ground in front of me, and I want people to walk by and throw dirt like an old fashioned Irish funeral. They said, we don’t do that. I said, well, you’re going to do it, and we’re going to have a little bubblegum machine there with dirt in it, and I’m going to make $0.25 each turn to help pay for his funeral. The guy looked at me like I was crazy, and my sister said, no, we’re getting one with a dollar bill machine. We were going from balling to laughing to balling to laughing. 

Charlie was in the Native American class at school, and they drummed him into the ground. There were six kids drumming and singing, and people were wailing. They were wailing. And now I have a headstone in Wisconsin with my name on it right next to my son. They make you buy this, like, concrete vault thing and all this bulls***. So, he’s in a casket because I didn’t want to burn his little body. I couldn’t. I buried him with his ax and skateboard. Afterwards, I said, I don’t need a casket when I go. Just open up the concrete vault, throw me in face first so he’ll never get away from me again. 

That was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s all uphill from there.

 

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