WOODBURY – In an era of equality, a local woman is leveling the playing field when it comes to one of the more macho traditions – wielding a chain saw.
Katherine Cole Scoville quickly piqued the interest of locals when she advertised a Chainsaw Class for Woman on the Calais Front Porch Forum website recently. Four women signed up for her class in April and this weekend’s class is fully booked. Her next class will be June 29-30. There is no charge for the two-day course at the Woodbury Community Room and at her home in Woodbury.
Scoville, by all accounts, is a capable, resourceful women who enjoys being energetic and engaged in both her professional and personal life. She works part-time as a server at the Hardwick Street Café at the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro; as a department buyer at the Buffalo Mountain Co-op in Hardwick; and as a bus driver with Wild Cat Busing in Hardwick. She is the single mother of two children, Karria, 18, Cyrus, 14 — both of whom can also use a chainsaw, she said.
Scoville bases her skills as a teacher of chainsaw lessons on years of experience.
“I took forestry in high school, my senior year, and learned how to operate a chainsaw, and after that I was able to use a chainsaw in a safer manner than most people who teach themselves or learn from a friend or relative,” Scoville said. "So, I started cutting my own for wood when I was in my 20s and have always used a chainsaw since."
“I realized there was a real lack of education on how to use a chainsaw, and people don’t know where to learn about using a chainsaw. Women, in particular, feel very fearful of chainsaws, so when women found out that I cut my own wood, they were very intrigued. I came to realize that it’s kind of a unique thing and that I’m a natural teacher – I really enjoy teaching people things,” she said.
Scoville spent the winter working on putting a plan together for class and received a prompt response when she reached out the community for students.
Scoville said the class is deliberately for women only to allow them to feel comfortable without having to be competitive with men.
“It’s not co-ed because women feel more comfortable when men aren’t around, as far as revealing their insecurities and so that we can support each other,” Scoville said.
Scoville has also brought some theatrics and choreography to her lessons that have both enamored and amused her students.
“I show up to the class dressed in a completely inappropriate outfit,” Scoville said. “It’s sort of classy, kind of sexy, that totally throws people, where people might say, ‘What? Who is this person?’"
“I start out by wearing high heels, a slinky dress, make-up and jewelry — I look like I’m going out to dinner with someone. When people walk in and see me, people wonder, ‘Am I in the right place?’ Last week, for example, I was wearing a slinky dress, and I ask them, ‘What do I need?’ Someone will say, ‘For one, you need to change into some appropriate boots and put on some chaps.'"
“So, I change into boots and put the chaps on over my dress, and I ask, ‘Am I ready?’ The other people in the class are laughing about it, but then they’ll say I need to put on some pants, and I need hearing and eye protection, and gloves. We go through everything piece of it and why it’s necessary,” she added.
Scoville said the her camped-up class routine is a light-hearted poke at male machismo but also to celebrate that women can perform challenging tasks.
“It’s absolutely not to emasculate men in any way, absolutely not,” Scoville said. “That’s a point I like to remind these women of, that we’re not men. They have upper-body strength that we don’t have. They can do a lot physically that we can’t do. We need to be conscious of that and take breaks, and don’t overdo it. It’s not a race.
“In talking with men, I’ve learned that they would like to learn more, too. When I’m talking to men, they don’t even know what they’re talking about, sometimes,” she added.
Scoville’s lessons consist of a two-hour morning class at the Woodbury Community Room to learn the basic mechanics of a chainsaw and necessary safety clothing and equipment, followed by a two-hour class on handling the chainsaw and cutting wood at Scoville’s nearby home. The second day of classes is a two-hour session on basic maintenance of the chainsaw and more wood-cutting.
Scoville prides herself on never being injured using a chainsaw.
“I’ve a pretty good track record,” Scoville said. “I’ve only thrown a chain once and I didn’t get hurt. It just smacked my leg, but I had chaps on, so it didn’t matter.”
Scoville has received rave reviews from her students.
“For the women who never cut before it was clear this was confidence building and empowering,” said Sabina Carinci, who lives in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, but has a second home in Marshfield. “Various techniques were practiced with various saws. There was always an emphasis on safety throughout. I cannot recommend her class enough.”
Kim McKee, of Calais, added: “I really wanted to be able to help with firewood and hopefully get to help with some trail work, so learning how to use a chainsaw is pretty key for that. The thought of taking the class with other women and a woman instructor was really exciting for me. It was a really supportive environment. Since I took it, I’ve been cutting every weekend to stay in practice.
There is no charge for the course, but participants can share a “gift of appreciation.”
For more information, email Scoville at firstname.lastname@example.org.