The Tale of Two Lumberjacks


Long ago in a land far away, the yearly lumberjack contest was approaching and there were no challengers for the reigning champion.

Banyan Stone was so big and so strong he had won every contest for the last 20 years. He had so humiliated all comers that even though there was a handsome prize – 2 fine bulls and seven gold coins – no one was interested.

Banyan could chop down 10 trees an hour from dawn to dusk.  No one else was close.

Just as the contest alderman was about to cancel the contest, a lumberjack from the southern part of the country stepped forward to challenge Banyan.

And a very unlikely challenger he was.

Only 110 pounds after his second dessert, Birdie Little’s parents had encouraged him as a child to be a jockey or a chimney sweep. But Birdie had his heart set on being a lumberjack. He left home at 15 to learn his trade.

Birdie threw himself at the challenge but at first could only chop down one tree a day. He continued to study the craft and improve and by the time he was 25 had built a budding reputation in his region, but nothing like Banyan’s.

On the day of the contest the two met for the first time. When Banyan first saw Birdie, he smiled broadly and wondered if this scrawny challenger would even be able to hoist his own axe. Birdie smiled, which surprised Banyan – he was used to seeing fear in his challenger’s eyes.

But when asked by Banyan why he was smiling, Birdie only replied ‘I know something you do not”.

Just then the sun crested the horizon and the two contestants retreated to their corner of the forest to begin.

Every hour Banyan heard Birdie stopping his chopping for 10 minutes.

Each time Birdie stopped, Banyan congratulated himself on his greater strength and began chopping even faster.

By noon he was chopping faster than he had ever chopped before – 11 trees an hour. And by midafternoon he had increased to 12 trees an hour!

Before he knew it, the whistle blew to signal dusk.

Banyan had never cut so large a pile in a single day – he knew that the 130 trees he felled was a new contest record.

But when he came into the clearing and saw Birdie’s pile, his jaw dropped in amazement. And then clamped in fury. Birdie must have cheated, he thought. There was no way a man so small could cut a pile so big!

How could you cut down this many trees” he asked. “You stopped every hour and I never stopped once!”

“Ah” said Birdie. “That is why I’ve chopped down 200 trees. You see, I spent those 10 minutes every hour sharpening my axe.”

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