Swapping her saw

Bob Clark

A Canisteo native who spends her time working honing her axes, swapped lives this summer with a burlesque dancer from Seattle - courtesy of ABC.

Andrea Robarge, now of Naples, was sent across the country as part of ABC's reality television series “Wife Swap.”

Due to confidentiality agreements, however, Robarge is not allowed to discuss the filming of the show. Producers did not respond to attempts for comment.

Robarge lived in Canisteo until her family moved to Avon when she was 10 years old.

Despite her rural upbringing, she said she had never tried cutting firewood or anything else related to woodsmen's competitions until she met her husband, Walter, when they attended Finger Lakes Community College together.

“I met him the day before school started,” Robarge said. “Then, about a week later, I was walking down the hallway and he said, ‘Hey we have this competition team and they need more women for the team.'”

“I was all dressed up and completely unprepared for it,” she added. “I went out there and they made me cut. I fell in love with it.”

Robarge spent much of her time in college competing and was inducted into the FLCC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 for her accomplishments on the Woodsmen's team.

Since then, the Robarge family has been traveling around the country competing in many competitions. Andrea and Walter are often joined by their four sons, Matthew, 18, Dakota, 16, Anthony “Beaker,” 13, and Mitchel, 11, who all have competed in wood cutting and axe-throwing competitions.

“This was the first year all four competed,” she said.

Andrea and Walter also compete internationally.

“We've gone to Australia and New Zealand to compete,” she said. “We've competed in the Olympic stadium (used for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games) there.”

Internationally, Robarge said her team does well most years.

“Last year we were so, so close,” she said. “It was nail-biting.”

The biggest problem her team faces is the wood in Australia.

“The wood is a lot harder over there,” she said. “We don't have the right equipment for it, but we're getting better every year.”

“As a team, we've been second,” she said. “I made the finals in the chop last year. Obviously I didn't make the top four, but I did make the top eight. There were close to 30 women who competed.”

In addition to her competitions, she assists Walter with their business, the Poplar Tree and Lawn Care Company in Naples. She also travels the country in the winter as part of a lumberjill show.

“I'll be leaving for five days in February,” she said

One downside to the show job is log rolling - standing up on floating logs by rolling them over with her feet.

“I'm going to Wisconsin, so I'm not exactly going to a warmer climate,” she said. “The pool isn't heated, either. It's an outdoors show.”

The episode featuring Robarge and her family is teased on ABC's Web site, but exactly when the show will air is unknown.

“I have no idea when it will be on,” she said.