The North Bend Eagle

 

 

Lumberjack measure
Colt Spence measures a cottonwood log to find his next cut. [Buy Eagle photos here]

Hard work paying off for Morse Bluff lumberjack

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/14/19

It’s only fitting that the Bohemian Lumberjack had to take a Bohemian cloverleaf to get to his work site – the ol’ “turn left to go right,” as one former NBC driver’s ed teacher put it.

Somewhere in northwest Saunders County, Colt Spence was bouncing down a gravel road in his 1979 R Model Mack truck. His route required a 90-degree turn to the west onto a bridge over the Skull Creek.

Skidder wheelie
Colt Spence's Timberjack skidder pops a wheelie as he maneuvers a recently cut cottonwood tree.

The old bridge had rusty steel trusses extending upward along its sides, guarding the gurgling water of the Skull some 10 feet below. It took two attempts, with some backing up in between, to make sure the truck made the turn sharp enough to avoid banging into the bridge.

The next turn Spence needed to make was another 90-degree turn immediately on the other side of the bridge. The turn was too tight for the old Mack to make, so Spence and his truck had to drive a quarter mile to the west where there was a spot to turn around. He then retraced the quarter mile back to the east where he could finally turn north onto a one-lane dirt path that took him to his job site.

In all, it took a half mile of driving and four minutes to cross a bridge 35 yards long.

But if this was easy, Spence wouldn’t be doing it.


The origins of the Bohemian Lumberjack Company can be traced to the legendary Funk House near the campus of Chadron State College.

After graduating from North Bend Central in 2002, Spence spent the next five years in the Navy. The Morse Bluff native left the service with a new goal: to play college football.

He walked on to the Eagle football team while studying rangeland management and livestock production on the GI Bill. He lived in the Funk House with some buddies, and it was there that he came across an abandoned Jonsered 50cc chainsaw. It gave Spence an idea.

The GI Bill didn’t cover all his expenses and money was tight. So he got the chainsaw in working order and asked a local rancher if it would be OK if he could cut firewood out of his windbreak. A friend loaned him a splitting maul to split the wood and soon Spence was in the firewood business.

His days were full. Weight lifting. Then class. Then football practice to get beat up as a member of the scout team. Then off to chop firewood.

One day, CSC head coach Bill O’Boyle called Spence into his office.

“Colt,” O’Boyle said to the nervous player sitting across from him. “How you eating? Are you getting enough to eat?”

“Sure,” Spence said, confused. “Yeah, I am.”

O’Boyle had good news. Spence was being put on a meal plan that would allow him to eat for free at the training table. While it wasn’t a scholarship, it was something. Spence felt that it was a step, a seat at the table. Literally.

While that helped with the financial situation, Spence didn’t give up his side gig splitting firewood.
“I just kept on chopping,” he said, “and grew it from there, I guess.”


When a wildfire hit the badlands area near Chadron in 2012, Spence slung his chainsaw over his shoulder, hiked into the wilderness and started cutting juniper trees into fence posts.

He sold the posts to a rancher, who admired Spence’s work.

“Those are some nice posts you got there,” the rancher said, “those Spenceposts.”

Spenceposts. The name stuck, but chopping wood was still just a side job for Spence.
He stayed in the Chadron area after graduating in 2013, working various HVAC, masonry and electrical jobs.

He hated the work.

“I knew, even when I was in the military, that I wanted to get out and play college football,” Spence said. “That’s all that mattered. My personality, the way I am, I’m obsessive about things.”

Once college and football ended, Spence found himself without an obsession. It wasn’t going to be HVAC work, that’s for sure.

 

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