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Gently Retracing The Paths of the Past

A visit with a Maine horse-logger and champion teamster

Midwinter in West Paris, Maine, challenges the senses. Imagine cold, and it's colder. Record snowfall turns everything into a silhouette, save the blue sky. Smell? Scant wood smoke.

Ah, but the sounds: Deep in the woods, a twig snap becomes a whip crack, and the crunch underfoot transforms a walk into the bass line of a would-be song. Trees creak, trunks flexing with the whims of their boughs.

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Just then, a power saw. A tall pine falls in crescendo. Silence again, followed by chains clinking, a tongue click, and a guttural command: "One step!"

Today is a good day for logging, if your name is Shawn McCole.

Making a trail on the first day establishes the way in and out for low-impact logger Shawn McCole, who rides a homemade 'chariot' behind his two Belgians, Bob and Tom.

McCole has horse-logged for 'hours and hours and hours - 20 years,' he says. Many would call him a 'back to the lander,' but when asked what he would put on a business card, he says, 'I'm a laborer.'

Respect reaps reward, McCole says, and this outlook is reflected in his use of the land and his love for horses: He breathes on their bits to warm them before putting them in, and can explain why their ears are perking up in this picture. 'They hear wild dogs in the distance,' he says. 'My horses are my partners,' he continues, from logging and sleigh rides in winter to summertime haying and competing in county fairs.

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