Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Bull of the Woods about more than punching hard

by Brad Fuqua & Western News
| June 25, 2009 12:00 AM

In his youth, lifetime Libby resident Mort Curtiss enjoyed lacing on a pair of gloves for a go-around in the ring. To go along with the fun of trading blows with a fellow competitor, he also liked to wrestle in another way to test his one-on-one athletic abilities.

Now at age 52, Curtiss admits he’s not in the best of shape anymore.

“I’m getting old … I definitely feel it some days,” he laughed.

Another challenge back in the day for Curtiss was the annual Bull of the Woods competition during Logger Days. The contest involves two people climbing up on a log and trading punches with the intent of knocking the other off. Curtiss won his first Bull of the Woods title back in 1975 when he was just a junior in high school.

After a long run by Tony Berget, Curtiss claimed his latest Bull title during last year’s Libby festival. In all, he has won the event six times in eight tries.

“A lot of it is balance and being patient,” he said. “You have to be patient and wait for your opportunity to strike. That’s a lot of it … people get impatient and make a mistake. Then they get knocked off.”

To take the event, strength is not necessarily the most important skill. Balance comes in handy but as Curtiss said, it’s all about timing.

“It doesn’t take a hard punch to knock a person off if they’re off-balanced,” he said. “People don’t realize they try to hit too hard and miss and get off-balanced a little bit. You tap them a little bit and down they go.”

Not the only one in the family to take a shot at the event, Curtiss’s younger brother, Tony, also won the title on a couple of occasions.

Late last week, Curtiss wasn’t sure if he would take another shot at the Bull of the Woods again this year.

“I don’t know yet. It depends how I feel at the time,” he said.

Curtiss is one of many Libby natives that have a strong connection to the logging industry. In fact, he logged from early childhood up until about 11 years ago.

“That’s when logging took a punch,” said Curtiss, who teaches industrial education at Libby High School. “That’s when I started teaching school.”

The popular activity, which will be staged at 7 p.m. Friday and has an entry fee, pays out a pretty good $500 prize.

“That shouldn’t be the motivation,” Curtiss said about the money “You either like to fight, or you don’t.”