October 12, 2008 07:27 PM by Lisa Stauber
America’s Toughest Jobs is sending the contestants on the most dangerous job yet – lumberjacking. The crew is going to have go logging in Washington State. 15 hour days, heavy equipment operation with no roads and steep hills, and ten ton trees all make logging one of the hardest jobs in America, with workers 10 times more likely to die than the average worker.
Bryce isn’t sure he’s going make it. “I’ve just got to find a way to get through it ,” he says. Gabe Rygaard is the boss, and he tells them it’s a fast paced business and they’d better pay attention. His hands show them how to take down a 140 ft. tall pine tree safely. “It takes 200 years for that thing to grow, and a few minutes to take it down,” Ben says, but knows the wood is needed to build homes and businesses.
Now the contestants have to wrap cable around the logs and prep them for processing. They’ll be climbing 60 feet up a tree using spikes on their shoes and a rope, to set the cable block up before the tree is felled. Sandy impresses right away, as usual. Steven, Bryce, and Michaela all make it up the tree and it’s quite a workout. Rommel cales the tree last and he’s having trounge getting used to the motion. He keeps slipping and Gabe thinks he’s scared.
It’s time for cutting, and Ben’s the first to take the chainsaw. “I have a really good feeling about it,” he says, saying his construction background comes in handy. “It was ridiculous how long that took,” Gabe says about Bryce. “A complete waste of time.” Steven cuts too deep and the tree falls too soon. He ruined about 5 feet at the bottom of the tree on top of not working safe. Sandy takes right to the chainsaw, but Rommel is still having problems. It seems he’s not cut out to cut down trees! His dislocated shoulder, from when they were rodeo clowns, is still bothering him and it’s affecting his work.
The logs have got to be dragged from the forest floor, up the hill and onto the equipment. They have to run a skyline and attach cables. Bryce takes a tumble on the slippery slope, but Rommel lags behind. After attaching the cable, the crew must scramble back up the hill as fast as they can. Bryce hurt his knee when he fell, and he’s in a lot of pain. While Bryce and Rommel are crying, the crane operator is lifting the log, and now the real work begins. They’ve got to attach chokers to the logs so the crane operator can carry them.
Steven and Rommel didn’t set the choker right, and the logs fall out of the line. The contestants are trading off jobs, doing every part of the job. Ben and Rommel walk under the skyline. “You just do one of the stupidest things you could ever do in the logging business,” boss Gabe yells. “You could have died.” He yells at them for a while.
Sandy and Bryce are climbing down the mountain and Sandy twists her ankle. Bryce falls again, too. “It sucked falling that many times,” he says. “I’m not a klutz.” Their load gets hung up and they’ve got to clear it before any work can continue. Bryce is slow and keeps getting yelled at for lagging behind.
Lunchtime is ten minutes in the back of a pickup truck. Ben and Rommel are set to work cutting the trees down into standard sizes for the mill, using chainsaws again. Rommel can’t even get it started. “I’m not going to start this saw for you,” the boss tells him. “If he can’t do it, he should just check himself out.”
The day comes to a close, and it’s time for the bosses to decide which contestants were the worst. “You survived logging, but Gabe wasn’t blown away with your efforts,” host Josh says. A first year logger makes $35,000 a year, and it’s added to the jackpot. Sandy is selected as the best worker, and Rommel and Bryce are put up as the worst.
Bryce might have been slow when he was working, but he’s picked up the pace now. He’s way ahead of Rommel, who is still on the tree placing cable blocks while Bryce is cutting his log down. Bryce and Rommel both have trouble with the chain saw, and Rommel manages to catch up while Bryce is still trying to cut it down. Bryce is going home.
Photos courtesy NBC.