By Leo Proechel, Staff Writer
Caleb Hawkins is a big guy. Red beard, robust musculature, resolute demeanour. He is fond of the outdoors, working on boats, and cutting trees with axes and saws. Some would consider him to be Warren Wilson’s greatest claim to fame.
Hawkins is a Timbersports athlete. This means that he participates in collegiate competitions put on by the German chainsaw company STIHL that involve speedily cutting wood with axes, crosscut saws, and chainsaws in various manners. Last spring, he made a name for himself and the Warren Wilson Timbersports team by winning the ESPNU-televised STIHL Mid-Atlantic Timbersports qualifier and by subsequently participating in a national collegiate Timbersports event with only six other top college athletes, where he came in last. On March 14 of this year, he again participated in an STIHL qualifier, in which he far outscored all of the other participants. However, he was disqualified from one event, so it is uncertain whether he will be selected to participate in nationals again this year.
Born and raised in a 1970′s farm house in Sedgwick, Maine, Hawkins unknowingly began practicing for his Timbersports career at an early age. ”Homework in 4th grade was splitting wood in the backyard, when I was homeschooled,” said Hawkins. “I’ve always been playing with axes, and had a fascination with the woods.” When he came to Warren Wilson, Hawkins intended to study forestry but soon discovered a passion for creative writing, which he decided to follow instead. But when Shawn Swartz, Frank Secret, and Julie Larson created the Timbersports team in fall 2013, he was quick to join. ”I kinda just slipped in there and fell in love with the sport,” he said. ”And over the past few years, I’ve developed a bit of an addiction to chain saws.”
When questioned about the risk involved with his sport, Hawkins insisted that Timbersports is really not very dangerous. He added, though, that he uses razor-sharp axes and chainsaws, that he must wear chaps and chain mail socks, and that within the short span of his Timbersports career he has been injured upon multiple occasions, the most serious incident requiring seven stitches in a single finger. After he graduates from Warren Wilson in May, Hawkins wants to pursue a professional career in Timbersports. He has reservations, though, as this would require a large investment of time and money. An axe alone, for example, can cost around $500, and a crosscut saw, $1,500. ”I’m definitely going to have to step my game up,” he said. “To invest in it myself would be a fairly expensive idea.”
Although Hawkins continues to train, the Timbersports team as a whole hasn’t had any events since November and doesn’t expect to have any for the duration of the current semester. Because of this, they have not been practicing either. ”It’s not like basketball, where you can practice all the time and you don’t run out of material.” Hawkins explained. ”We’re pretty hard on material [wood], if we’re practicing constantly, so we hold off if we don’t have anything else coming.” If you want to see what Timbersports is like, however, Hawkins encourages you to look up the “single buck” or “standing block” on YouTube, or come watch him practice under the supervision of Shawn Swartz, down at the campus sawmill on Tuesdays and Fridays at 4:00. He hopes that, someday in the future, a Timbersports event will take place at Warren Wilson and expose students to the team and the sport in general. Hawkins is grateful to Warren Wilson for allowing him to develop his talent. ”It’s been a really good opportunity to get my feet wet, so to speak,” he said. ”I’m just trying to keep a level head, and do my best.”