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Tom Mistic piles up logs Saturday as about two dozen loggers held a cutting bee to haul out 40 truckloads of timber for Tim Kelm, who has colon cancer. It's one of the first cutting bees in several years, this one in Maple Ridge Township. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

Neighbors come together to help Beltrami County logger

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Neighbors come together to help Beltrami County logger
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

MAPLE RIDGE TOWNSHIP -- Loggers hauled off 40 truckloads of timber from here Saturday, but not because of a sudden housing boom.

"It's great - it's the time of year when everyone's busy ... for them to take time to come here ..." Tim Kelm, who has colon cancer, trailed off.

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About two dozen loggers and supporters came to a remote Maple Ridge Township tract for an old-fashioned cutting bee. By day's end, they had hauled off 40 semi-truckloads - 550 cords of wood - to Northwood Panelboard Co. in Solway.

They started early and stayed late. A yellow school bus stood nearby, full of donated food to feed the loggers all day. A generator ran nearby for power.

"We're always helping each other," said Kelm, who undergoes another round of chemotherapy on Monday. "It's very impressive."

He couldn't stay away - Kelm helped run logging equipment with son Dallas while wife Debbie played host.

"It's been tough, but this week I don't have it (chemotherapy)," he said. "It's a good week this week, but Monday I have to do it again, so that's a bad week."

Throughout the 57-acre Beltrami County tract loggers were at work with skidders and delimb equipment. Piles of wood were everywhere, but most of the work concentrated on loading up the semis to take the wood to Solway, then taking Highway 89 back to the logging site.

Kelm said he won the timber in a county auction in December, but then his new illness will prevent him from fulfilling the contract. Logger Erv Blom began organizing the cutting bee, reminiscent of pioneer days when farmers helped harvest the crops of a disabled farmer.

"It doesn't take very long," Blom said of efforts to pull off the cutting bee. "You get on a phone for a couple of nights and call people up and pretty soon it's all there. Pretty nice to see all that wood go out in one day."

Blom said most of the effort will be done on Saturday, but the tract has a total of 3,000 cords, with about 2,500 aspen and 500 balsam. About 1,000 cords remains to be cut.

He also runs a contract school bus business, and had one of his buses on site to provide space for loggers to sit down and rest, and serve an all-day lunch. He and his wife Bonnie set up the lunch, with food donated by logger families, who also came to provide support.

"It's kind of a neighborhood thing," said Blom. "It makes everyone feel good to get together to do something like this. I enjoy every one."

Blom has organized cutting bees before, and he always is pushing raffle tickets for someone's benefit dinner.

"We've had quite of few of them, but I can't remember when the last one was," he said of local cutting bees. "We've had five or six, maybe seven."

Blom set up the school bus Friday night and set up signs directing loggers to the site, a chore that took from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., he said.

"We finally got the bus loaded this morning, all the food," said Bonnie Blom. "It's funny how our community always does stuff together. Somebody has a need, we all go together as a community. I'm so proud to be a part of it."

"Who knows who will be the next one," says Erv Blom. "When you're in good health and can do something, it makes you feel good. Somebody's out there looking out for you."

Ron Vold knows what it's like. He lost an eye to a construction accident. He's also related to Kelm through his wife.

"They had a - not a cutting bee - benefit for me a couple of years ago and it really helps," Vold said. "It really makes you feel good when the community all comes together. You find out you've got friends you didn't even know you had."

Saturday's event is even more so special as it's a busy time for loggers in a troubled wood products market, Vold said.

"It really helps out, especially in times like this when everything's tight," he said. "It's quite a deal ... they haven't had one of these in a long time."

"Everybody's in a crunch right now," said Kelm's wife, Debbie. "This is the time the loggers make their money, in just a few months. So it's really something to have that many people here."

Tim Kelm's treatments have caused a lot of family changes, she said. They have two sons, with Dallas helping run equipment Saturday. "He really stepped in when Tim was unable to work the past six weeks."

Son Trevor is away at college, Debbie Kelm said. "He's done his share when he can."

Her husband's prognosis is good, with a more normal life expected in six months when chemotherapy is done, she said. "They're pretty confident it'll be gone at the end of this."

"I'm working -- I can't stand sitting around," Tim Kelm said.

"This has been one of the nicest days we've had for all winter," said Blom.

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