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Fischer family carries on the sport of log rolling

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River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Chris Fischer names off the members of his family who are professional logrollers.

There's himself. His 16-year-old son, Tyler. And nephews Jamie Fischer and John and Travis Wells.

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Together, they probably make up a third of the male professional log rollers, Fischer says.

"It's a real small sport," he explains. "It's been in our family since my dad did it back in the '30s and it's just something that our kids wanted to do to pass on the tradition. So they keep at it."

Chris' father, Harold, started it all when he and his friend Bob Teske learned how to roll from some of the old-time lumberjacks in Stillwater, Minn.

From their first performance at a 1936 Fourth of July exhibition in Stillwater, the pair went on to win 14 "trick and fancy" log rolling championships in the 1950s and '60s. They also toured the country exhibiting their acrobatics on logs.

National Geographic magazine featured the two in its September 1949 edition.

Harold's children - Chris, Jim, David, Bonnie and Susan - eventually would pick up the sport, and now they're passing it on to their children.

Chris has gone so far as to build a log rolling and boom run pond at his home between North Hudson and Houlton.

The pond has been splashing with activity this summer while members of the Fischer clan and their fellow competitors from around the region prepare for competitions.

Chris' wife, Laura, says that on any given night you might find half a dozen to a dozen competitors practicing their rolling or running.

The next major event is this weekend's World Lumberjack Championships at Hayward.

Among the frequent visitors to the Fischer pond who will be competing at Hayward are Chris, Tyler and Tyler's 22-year-old sister, Tanya. They'll be joined by Jamie Fischer (son of Chris' brother Jim) and John and Travis Wells (sons of Chris' sister Bonnie).

John Wells' wife, Valerie, also competes.

Last weekend, they were at the World Log Rolling Championships held in conjunction with the Minneapolis Aquatennial.

Earlier this month, Chris, Tyler, Tanya and Jamie competed in the sixth annual ESPN Great Outdoor Games in Orlando, Fla.

Tyler placed second in the men's boom run, winning $3,500 in prize money, while Jamie took first in the boom run and second in log rolling for a total payout of $13,500. Chris finished seventh in the log rolling and Tanya was seventh in the women's boom run.

Chris says Tyler has the potential to be a world champion in both the boom run and log rolling.

Log rolling, he says, takes balance, speed, agility and mental stamina.

"What you're trying to do is dislodge your opponent using footwork," he says. "A lot of times, it's who's stronger. A lot of times it's who's faster. It all depends on the person - who's got the better balance up there. And who's been working out and who hasn't been working out."

Chris doubled the size of the pond on his property this spring in order to put in the boom run course - six lathe-turned Western red cedar logs tied end to end. The event consists of a run the length of the logs and back.

He drove to Idaho over the Memorial Day weekend to pick up the logs.

The pond is lined and the bottom is covered with a layer of rocks so log rollers can wear spikes without fear of puncturing the liner.

Chris, 43, says he and other older log rollers like Fred Scheer of Hayward use their experience to stay in the competition.

"It's a matter of dislodging them before you get too tired. That's the trick," he says. "You've got the footwork and you know what to do with the younger guys. ...They might get nervous out there, whereas we're a little calmer. We've got nothing to lose so we just go after them."

Randy Hanson can be reached at rhanson@rivertowns.net

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