PERU — When Maurice Lacroix Jr. was 8 years old, his father taught him how to use a 41-pound chain saw with half-inch-high teeth.

“I wanted to know this stuff because I’d seen him do it, I’d seen all the guys do it, all the women,” Lacroix said. “The saw was so big and heavy you weren’t in danger.”

That was 50 years ago. He hasn’t put his chain saw down.

Lacroix is still logging on his father’s land, still living on the property that he grew up on, still rebuilding after a devastating 2008 fire destroyed the original barn and farmhouse.

He said he draws a lot of inspiration from his father. Maurice Sr. died in 2006 at age 90, after 68 years working in the woods.

“My father, he had 185 men when I was a kid,” Lacroix said. They would move from logging camp to logging camp, job to job.

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He remembers Maurice Sr. calling the crew together on a work site one day.

“He says, ‘You know boys, this is what we signed up for. Anybody wants to quit right now, hit the road,'” Lacroix said. “That kept me in the woods; it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”

Growing up at the end of a long dirt road, the family didn’t have electricity. Lacroix and his wife, a nurse, still live off the grid. He keeps 13 cows on their 386-acre farm at the bottom of Black Mountain, not for dairy or meat but as pets. They have names like Shirley and Kendra and frequently follow him into the woods. They snack on white maple and hemlock bark and never wander too far.

His first job at age 8 was trimming brush with bush cutters and selling firewood to family members. With the exception of a few months spent driving a truck, he, too, has spent his career logging for a variety of customers.

“I cut the Mixing Bowl (trail) at Sunday River, I cut that all myself in 1975,” Lacroix said. “It took two-and-a-half, three months. It was extremely steep.”

Each tree is different, and even the little ones can be dangerous. No mistake, it’s hard work, Lacroix said.

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“I’ve been beaten up so bad in the woods,” he said. Broken ribs. A busted face. A broken heel. “When I was a kid, I’d see guys, good-looking guys, within 10 years of logging, they age 50 years in 10 years. That’s what you do in logging. It’s an awful abuse to the body.”

Still, he never considered an office job or anything else.

“I guess I’ve got sawdust in my veins,” he said.

Lacroix was cutting almost 400 cords of firewood a year before the 2008 fire. He had a stroke that same night, from the stress, and he’s taken it easier since.

He’s been rebuilding the farmhouse slowly since 2010. It still needs to be insulated. He’s hoping to be in next year.

Today, he cuts pulp logs for mills, sometimes with one or two helpers. Lacroix said he’s had better luck with women assistants.

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“They really want to learn,” he said. “They stick right with it.”

They’ve left their own marks by trimming out parts of his tall, yellow skidders in pink paint and pink duct tape.

Lacroix moves a little slower than he did a decade ago but has no plans to retire. If he lives to be 100, someone will push him into his skidder, he said.

“You know what keeps us in the woods is pride. That’s my No. 1 thing, pride,” he said. “When I die, when I’m gone, they can say, ‘This guy earned his keep.'”

Know someone everyone knows? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]


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