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God’s Logroller. (part 1)

I faced off with the Nine Time Logrolling Champion of the World in the match of my life! In fact it was a match FOR my life; I just didn’t know it at the time. Never was there a contest for higher stakes. It wasn’t just some trophy or title or bag of money on the line. It was my very soul. That’s why God sent the best. That’s why He sent THE NINE TIME LOGROLLING CHAMPION OF THE WORLD. Mr. Phil Scott. Because when God wants something…

He gets it!

In the compiling of this document I beg pardon for a single inconsistency within the writing. My emotion for this man and the part he played in my life often overwhelms. My respect for him and the fact that he is senior to me in all ways compels me to refer to him as “Mister”. A title of which he is most deserving. But at times my affection and love for him overshadows my respect and I refer to him by a more familiar term. By his first name. Phil. His life and what he stands for does evoke (and deserve) both references, the “Mr.”, whom I hold in high esteem… and his given name (when my emotion breaks forth), as he is friend, mentor, and even “brother”.

Mr. Phil Scott. Champion logroller. A man from Barrington, Nova Scotia. Small in stature, not topping five and a half feet, weight, a buck thirty at best, button up shirt tucked in, hair combed over, strong features, a set jaw, steely eyes that show kindness, yet determination, and single mindedness of purpose, friendly, but not a people pleaser, a King James Bible tucked under his arm. The greatest logroller God ever created.

Throughout the 70’s and early 80’s he won nine world championships, last in his era, as rule changes have since pushed the sport into a new direction that favors power and size over genuine log rolling ability. Any champions since, who have matched or exceeded his number of titles, did it in a different arena, sprinters versus a marathon runner, oranges versus an apple. The same, yes, but very different.

This is not being written with intention to dispute the different epochs and the quality of the champions produced, or dredge up old arguments, or fan flames. It is, however, the studied opinion of many (myself included in that number) that in the arena of pure agility, determination, and endurance, Mr. Phil Scott remains unparalleled.

There is ample video footage showing his feats of agility. My favorite clip being where he tips a block end over end some dozen or more times, jumps lightly from the block to a very buoyant wooden ball, which he proceeds to roll in a variety of directions, then finally jumps to solid ground without getting wet. This was common fare for this champion roller, and not some singular highlighted event.

But where he shined brightest (head and shoulders above the rest), was in his competitive nature. When another man faced off against him, pitting their will against his… this is where Mr. Scott was at his best. He once stated, when describing the determination necessary to become a champion logroller, that

“You’d have to rather die, than to lose”.

That’s the attitude required to excel. Easy to say. Easy to write about. Hard to do. He did it. He stayed on the log when other men pushed him to the wire. When his lungs or legs wanted to burst, he kept going. He never gave in. He trained longer and harder than the rest. Rolled on a lake in the summer, rigged a dry log in his basement for the winter months. Rolled everything he could find that would float, including the inner core of a water heater, if you can imagine the buoyancy and speed of that piece of apparatus.

His style was unique, having the ability to roll competitively over either shoulder. Many have rolled both shoulders, sure… but not in competition against upper echelon opponents. He did. His turns from one shoulder to the other, quick as lightning, offsetting the opposition with a well timed pull at their moment of weakness. A high speed chess match executed with both precision and grace. Small wonder he earned the nickname

“The Cat”

Fleetness of foot. Impeccable balance. Laser focus. Nine titles (not some silly nine lives). His nickname apt. He could skip rope and roller skate on the log. Roll anything that would float, you name it.

When in the course of explaining the “keys” to being a top logroller, he once said, “You have to maintain a certain body position on the log. Not just some of the time, but ALL of the time”. Anybody who has ever logrolled knows exactly the difficulty of that charge. To never lose focus. To never lose position. That is the goal. Achieved by precious few. Achieved by this man.

Mr. Phil Scott. Champion logroller. A man of rugged personality. In the dead of winter he developed a sickness. Fever running high. He stoked the living room fireplace to high flame, accosted the frozen lake with a sledgehammer, breaking through the winter ice, stripping down to his shorts, plunging into the freezing water, staying under as long as could be borne, then resurfacing and evacuating back to the waiting fire, first warming, then sweating. Next morning all trace of the sickness gone.

At the age of seventeen I was hired to perform in a lumberjack show. A theme park outside of Chicago. Five person event, four shows a day, five on weekends, hundred day run, no days off. Climbing, rolling, and chopping.

Six Flags Great America

One of the performers in the show turned out to be a nephew of Mr. Scott. He had a copy of a video which we viewed called “The Last Log Drive”, which documented a group of Nova Scotia lumberjacks fell a stand of timber, haul the logs by mule team, and float them down the river to the mill for processing. The way it was done before the age of machinery.

That is where I first beheld the fleetness of foot of Mr. Phil Scott. Champion logroller. He scampered across the logs and rode them down the rapids as they twisted and turned beneath him. He was not the only “river rat” on the job, but he was the most agile and deft of skill.

At the end of the log drive a picnic celebration of sorts was held, where the lumberjacks engaged in competition. Phil’s rolling in this event, the finest display of footwork and balance I had ever beheld. It was not in earnest, but in fun, yet his showcased agility instilled in me a desire to push the level of my own logrolling to new heights. There would be other teachers over the years, but none overshadowing this simple snippet of video footage, which continually pushed me to strive for fleeter feet.

I first met Mr. Phil Scott in Florida just before the turn of the new century. We performed together in a five day festival, rolling best of three matches against each other four times a day. It was not competition, but a performance for an audience. We worked together to entertain the crowd, splitting wins and losses to make the show the best it could be. He taught me that part of showmanship, to check my pride at the door, give the crowd the best entertainment possible, not fight for the win at the expense of the show. Save that stuff for competition. A showman is not about himself,

A showman is about the CROWD.

A lesson I never forgot the next twenty plus years of performing. A lesson that doesn’t get through to some. When I got into my forties, the endurance and quickness in my legs somewhat diminished, I took a lump or two from youngsters bent on winning at all costs, rather than sacrificing for the sake of the crowd. I violated that tenant myself a time or three over the years (so had it coming), but was fortunate to have Mr. Scott’s teaching in this aspect, guiding me to be a better showman than I otherwise would have been.

He didn’t teach me this by telling me. He just quietly did these things. Practiced these things. Was the showman. I noticed and followed suit.

Mr. Phil Scott. Champion Logroller. A quiet and unassuming man. Boundless in energy. Fearless in tackling the challenges life presented. He never slowed down. He never gave in. He never looked for ease. He slept a couch, a truck bed, an airport floor, a locker room bench, with more tranquility than any prince ever slept a feather bed. His rest did not come from the comforts of the world. His rest came from above. His rest was found in Jesus.

Come vnto me all yee that labour, and are heauy laden, and I will giue you rest. Take my yoke vpon you, and learne of me, for I am meeke and lowly in heart: and yee shall find rest vnto your soules. For my yoke is easie, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 (Holy Bible 1611)

The years passed and we performed together often. One memorable adventure stands out in my mind. A small town festival in West Virginia. I drove the truck and trailer up from Florida, picked Phil up at the D.C. airport, then we drove through the night towards our destination, our conversation so fluid, easy, and pleasant, that I neglected to watch the fuel gauge. The truck died and came to a stop at the base of a long grade.

No worries. We just dumped a gallon of mixed fuel into the tank (designated for chainsaws), and chugged on up the hill. Before the mix was spent, a gas station emerged. We filled up and headed on down the trail, conversation once more light and free. Funny memory. A bit of oily gas never hurt a thing.

That same trip the two of us went to a local restaurant. Before eating, Phil asked if I would like to pray over the food, or whether he should. I consented to do so, praying the nervous, formulaic, bland and blasé prayer of a person ashamed of the public eye. It was brief and devoid of feeling. Not a prayer fit for the God of the Heavens and the Earth.

Phil noticed. He kept his head down longer than I did after the Amen, no doubt honoring the Lord silently. He never mentioned it to me, but from then on when the time to pray arose, he never asked me to perform the task. He did it himself. Honor to the King, not to men.

Mr. Phil Scott. Champion logroller. A man of prayer. Hat removed. Head bowed. Hands together in reverence. True words of praise and supplication raised to God, confessing his lowliness, his gratitude, the greatness of the Lord. Simple words. Sincere words. The words of a lumberjack, sawmill man, and logroller.

I never forget the wholeheartedness in which he prayed, and tried to be sincere from that day forth. Failing mostly. But I noticed a difference in how he prayed, compared to the manner of other men. At the time though, I had it in my mind that we were similar, both men of God. How little I knew. He was indeed a “born again” Bible believing Christian. I was not. A Mormon. Unsaved. And unaware of the truth.

The inevitable showdown looming…

In a ghost town theme park in Ohio, we met up again to perform together, as we had countless times before in the last seven years. But this time it was different. Middle of the summer, me and this quiet and unassuming man of God, locked horns. We began a match that would carry on for two successive summers, culminating in the loss of our friendship. We became instead competitors against one another, a log rolling log and a Bible between us.

Someone should’ve told me to better pick my battles. Someone should’ve told me to count the cost. Someone should’ve told me when you come to scratch with a fellow (especially with stakes higher than some trophy or title or bag of money!)… best off pick on some shiftless sluggard without rudder or sail or steam.

Not on a decorated champion. Not on a man who knew no quit. Not on a man undaunted by hard work. And most certainly… NOT ON A MAN WITH A KING JAMES BIBLE TUCKED UNDER HIS ARM! I’d have better booked a phone booth battle with Sonny Liston, than to face off against Mr. Phil Scott. Champion logroller.

But I was arrogant.

(Continued in Part 2)…