The lady is a lumberjack

Martha King has packed a lot of experiences into her 27 years, some of which involved travel. And while travel is not unusual for a young adult from Chadds Ford, her reasons are a little different from those of others.

Martha King is a lumberjack who competes in various worldwide lumberjack championships.

She’s been around trees her whole life. Her parents, Rob and Katharine King, own and operate Chadds Ford Tree Service.

Martha King recently returned from her fifth Lumberjack World Championship, this one in Hayward, Wisc. She has also competed in Germany, France and Australia. She won a championship in Paris in 2015, competing in a field of 13 women from seven countries.

“I came out on top. That was pretty good,” King said.

She didn’t do as well this last time in Hayward, though. King said she made it into the finals in two events. She came in second in the underhand chop, her favorite event, and fourth in one of the two-person events.

Martha King's axe blade is a blur as she powers through a swing.

Martha King's axe blade is a blur as she powers through a swing.

“I was really disappointed in the underhand because we had good wood the first two days. I cut fairly quickly, fairly well, but made a few mistakes. But I was on the cusp of a world record if I hadn’t made a mistake,” she said.

On day one, she scored a personal best, chopping an 11-inch aspen log in 29.58 seconds. The next day, however, she lost time by missing a clean first cut and wound up chopping extra wood that didn’t need to be cut. That mistake cost her two seconds and the win.

King began competing in 2007 while attending Penn State, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in animal sciences, and minored in wildlife and fisheries science and forest science. Like many people, King is still trying to figure out what she wants to do with her degree.

“I feel like I’m pretty well-rounded in that I’ve worked with my father doing the tree work. I work at a specialty sawmill right now. But I worked at a pig farm in Germany. I helped manage that. I got to be the farmer, veterinarian, nutritionist, all that. That was super cool. I’ve worked with pheasants, and I worked at the New Bolton Center with mares and foals in the NICU and ICU. So, I’ve got all those different experiences. Ideally, if I had time and enough funds, I’d probably go back to school. I’m considering becoming a chicken vet.”

Had she had time for other classes while at Penn State, she said, she would have also studied avian sciences.

“If I could work more with animals, that would be great, but ideally, if I could get an awesome sponsorship and just chop wood for the rest of my life, I’d be happy, too,” she said.

She describes herself as a naturally competitive person who grew up as a tomboy. Most of her friends were boys, and she loved proving them wrong when they said girls couldn’t do what the boys can.

“It was always cool to try to beat them at things. If I could prove them wrong, that felt good,” she said.

Martha King acknowledges that her father was a strong influence in her decision to get into wood chopping. Rob King also competed at Penn State when he was a student.

“When I was growing up, on Friday nights we’d watch slides of dad doing the chopping and the sawing. I always admired that. I thought it was interesting,” she said.

There was still a wood-chopping team at the school when she went to Penn State, and she was one of the few girls who made the team.

When it comes to chopping, Martha King said she trains, on average, three days per week chopping three to five logs per training session. She cuts back right before a competition to stay loose.

“You can’t chop well if you’re tense. Muscles need to be relaxed to do what they need to do,” she said.

King added that her traveling and competing has been a great way to meet people and make some life-long friends.

She added that her mother, Katharine King, would have preferred her getting into something a bit more feminine, but is fully accepting of her competing.

“She’s knows who I am and she’s always encouraged me to pursue my passions. Once she realized I was serious about it, she’s been really good.”

While preparing to demonstrate her chopping skills, Martha King slid some chain mail over her socks before putting on her shoes.

“I like having all my toes,” she said.

 

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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