History coughed and whistled and whined back to life Friday for more than 100 Sebastopol students treated to a demonstration of the North Coast's sole surviving steam-powered sawmill.

The rare outing to Sturgeon's Mill near Occidental had Buck Shortridge, a fourth grader at SunRidge Charter School, feeling as though his birthday had arrived a day early.

"I got lucky," said Buck, who turns 10 today, as he held the handmade nail he was chosen to receive from a volunteer blacksmith. A couple other members of the all-volunteer crew that maintains and operates the historic mill demonstrated the use of a hefty, two-person chainsaw, then gave the birthday boy one of the hefty rounds they sliced from a redwood log.

Friday's school day preceded this weekend's public demonstration at Sturgeon's Mill, located on Green Hill Road between Occidental and Graton roads. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors can behold the workings of a steam mill with components that date to the predecessor first powered up at Korbel, near the Russian River, in 1880.

Buck Shortridge said he liked the great, old saws and the sounds and dust and steam, but it's not the sort of work he intends to do.

"It's a bit too gritty," said the almost 10-year-old. "I really want to be an engineer, one who invents stuff."