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What's the hardest job in America?

Some people think they have the most difficult occupation in the country - the Rygaards can prove it. The Port Angeles-based family, who opened Rygaard Logging 16 years ago, was chosen as one of "America's Toughest Jobs" on the new NBC reality show.

Company president Gabe said he got a call from a Seattle-based film institute asking if they would be interested. After he said yes, producer Thom Beers of Original Productions, the company that has produced action reality shows including "Deadliest Catch" and "Ax Men," contacted him.

"We had an interview and we got chosen," Gabe said.

Before the Rygaards knew it, a 100-person crew came to their Monroe Road property toting cameras and boom microphones and six out of the original 13 contestants - the others had been eliminated in the other "toughest jobs" such as crab fishing and ice road trucking.

"We rigged up our big cable machine and ran the contestants through a lot of stuff," said Gabe, who was the main boss during the shoot.

After giving the six contestants, both male and female, a crash course in the logging business, including climbing trees and working with the loader, Gabe and the rest of the Rygaards put them to work. At the end, Gabe chose the two weakest contestants and set up a head-to-head logging challenge to see who would stay and who would go.

"It was a really good experience," Gabe said. "They liked us so much that (we will be a part of) the finale, as well."

For Gabe's mother, Kathy, who along with her husband, Craig, grew up in Sequim and is a Sequim High School graduate, watching dozens of crew members, producers and contestants "invade" her home was a thrilling experience.

"The contestants don't know where they are going before they get there," Kathy said. "It was pretty fun to watch them out of their elements."

The Rygaard family, that also was featured on the "Today Show" on Aug. 25 as a kick-off to "America's Toughest Jobs," expects to appear on the show in late September or early October.

Taking a peek on "the other side of television," as Kathy put it, was a unique experience for the Rygaards - they said it took 84 hours of filming for just one 42-minute show and they went through the experience twice, once for the regular show and once for the finale. Both were shot in June.

"It was a rare experience," Kathy said. "It shows people being themselves on television ... no acting."

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