Wood...

.... back when I was still a little boy, I remember watching my Father split firewood in the back yard..... he'd cut the wood himself from trees that he had hand-selected during long walks through the woods on Uncle Bob's farm..... oak, sometimes..... or hickory.... and occasionally a maple or a poplar....

.... I remember bumpy trips across freshly-cut silage fields in his old blue Ford truck.... I'd help him as best I could by dragging off branches while his chainsaw buzzed.... I wasn't much help, really, in retrospect.... he could have accomplished the task just as easily without my help.... but it made me feel that I was doing something worthwhile and I know he enjoyed the company......

.... but he wasn't after the limbs, though..... he was after the trunk - the meat of the tree.... and for that mission, he could have gone it alone....

.... he'd tell me the same story that he told me every winter when we'd start up the truck, turn on the heater, and begin the drive home with our load of fresh wood.... he'd point to a slight curve near the edge of the 80-acre field and say, "your Uncle Ben and I used to chop wood there for our house when I was little.... we had a little wooden sled that we used to pull it in back to the house.." ..... and every year as we pulled up onto the gravel road that bordered that field, he'd just be ending that childhood memory of his....... a memory of two brothers cutting wood with cross-cut saws and then dragging a sled full of firewood the 1/2 mile back to where they lived.....

.... he'd be silent then for a while.... and before either of us knew what hit us, the gravel had turned to blacktop, the blacktop to highway, the highway back to gravel, and we were home......

.... he'd pull the truck around behind the house and we'd unload the wood piece by piece.... and there it would lay until he gradually changed the pile of wood into neatly stacked ricks of busted wood.... one piece at a time....

... one load would take him four weekends, usually...... and the wood would lay stacked all through the summer - drying - and by the next autumn, it was ready for the fireplace..... from the time that I was old enough to walk, this scene repeated itself every single year......

.... I was talking with my Mother the other day about him, and the whole "busting wood" thing came up..... it turns out that she was just as mesmerized by him as I was..... how he'd turn the wood to just the right angle, lean in and let his eyes search the surface for natural splits, breaks, or signs of weakness.... and once he had achieved some sort of near-mystical understanding between he and the hunk of wood, he'd steady himself, bring his mall to the port-arms position, and in one single moment of extreme violence, precision, and focus, he'd smash down on the wood.... and more often than not, he'd make the split in one beautiful movement..... and if the wood didn't bow to his will after the first lick, it usually gave up after the second.....

.... knots, on the other hand, were a thing to be studied and analyzed with greater skill and a more thoughtful mind.... and for those he used homemade steel wedges, a razor sharp axe, and a sixteen-pound hammer.....

.... he tried to teach me The Art of It All many, many times, but I was not a very good student......my aim was always just that little bit off, or I didn't quite have enough upper body strength yet.... something was always just not quite right...... I tried, sure, but I just didn't have that Zen moment of skill, balance, and knowledge that he had......

.... looking back now, there were a lot of lessons afoot as I watched him work - and in what he tried to teach me...... determination, focus, precision, forcefulness, perseverance, courage, strength, attention to detail, tenacity..... some of which I understood then... and some of which I am only coming to see now........

.... I guess he was a bit like a Hillbilly version of that guy from Caddyshack who kept saying that you had to "be the ball"..... except with an axe and a stick of firewood....... "imagine the mall hitting the mark that you've drawn in your mind... and the wood yielding as it is meant to be.." ..... (him doing his best to channel Obi Wan on a stifling spring day in Tennessee) ..... heh, I never quite mastered it....... but he was something else to watch......

..... and the best thing about watching him?..... each new piece was a brand new struggle.... another puzzle, another challenge, another game...... it wasn't a chore to him to break his back busting all of that wood..... no, not at all.... it was fun..... he'd pick up a new piece of wood, spin it around until it was just right, and smile...... saying to himself as the sweat rolled down his cheek, "I see you." ..... then WHAM!, it was split...... and he was exactly where he wanted to be.....

... in all honestly, I don't get every aspect of it just yet.... but I am trying..... I just wish that he'd lived longer so that we could talk about this stuff now...... now that I truly realize how amazing he was.....

by Eric on January 23, 2008 | Bullshit (16) | TrackBack (0) | SWG Stories
Bullshit So Far

That's wonderful, Eric. Every time you write about your Dad it's as if you are quilting his legacy together.

Bullshitted by pam on January 23, 2008 06:13 PM

Great story, Eric! I've never thought of splitting wood as an art form before, but that's what it was to him. I would have liked to have seen that.

Bullshitted by Dash on January 23, 2008 07:13 PM

Isn't it amazing how complex a simple thing like splitting a piece of wood is? To someone with no experience with, or, worse, no comprehension of, the subtleties of manual labour it can be like watching an extraterrestrial performing an alien task. Manual woodsplitting is a dying art. Lucky you to have been able to watch and gain an appreciation for the skill required.

Bullshitted by G on January 23, 2008 09:00 PM

I do believe I loaded some of that wood into your trunk. If it wasn't that wood, it was newer wood stored in the old place.

Means more to me now.

Bullshitted by Jim - PRS on January 23, 2008 09:04 PM

well done sir...

I feel that way about my own Mother in the kitchen, or ironing....

certainly there is an art to "living"

Bullshitted by awtm on January 23, 2008 10:55 PM

I totally understand the art of splitting wood. When it's 22 degrees *inside* ....you learn pretty quick. I lived for 15 years on my own in a 10,000 sq ft building, with nothing but two wood stoves. And indeed, it is an art, the chopping of the wood.

Just try getting out of bed nekkid, putting on your wood chopping shoes (and nothing else!) EVERY morning. And not just because you're camping. It's where you live.

But the real art is learning how to burn *wet* wood! Now that is art worthy of awards. (If I don't say so myself!)

Bullshitted by DogsDontPurr on January 24, 2008 02:08 AM

Wonderful memories, great story, lovingly told...

Bullshitted by Winston on January 24, 2008 08:13 AM

It reminds me, of the times in the fall/winter I'd return to Carolina. Dad was never one to idle, and neither was his daddy or his brother. They'd drag all us cousin's and grand youngin's out to the woods, whip out the chain saws, and let the saw dust fly.

Gum trees suck.

Bullshitted by RedNeck on January 24, 2008 11:21 AM

Hell, now that I think of it... those ol' boys probably cut down gum trees to give us somethin' to do(chew one) to stay the hell out of their way....

Bullshitted by RedNeck on January 24, 2008 11:23 AM

There are days like today...after reading your post.........that I can almost feel his presence..........and I feel how much I missed my dad over the last 33 years.. Much more could have been learned.........

Bullshitted by kdzu on January 24, 2008 12:37 PM

I used to get wood when I was younger. Matter o' fact, still do.

Thanks for the memories.

Bullshitted by Elisson on January 24, 2008 04:26 PM

this is the kinda ritin i cum here to read ... ye shore know how to paint the pitcher n brang back lots of memries of my own times trine to split logs.

on to splittin hairs: not that i orta be sayin nuthin bout correck ritin, but yers is so good it dont need lil glitches lack 'between he and the log' when 'between' is a preposishun n takes a die-reck objeck, meanin it wood be better to rite 'between him and the log.' corse, style is a personull thang n ye gut a fine one ... witch thats whut keeps me a'cummin back here.

Bullshitted by buddy don on January 25, 2008 04:51 AM

I found you via Naked Villainy.

I had a very similar experience throughout my youth, learning from my father and granfather. I look forward to teaching my boys this "art," if not for the pleasant memories they will carry into aduthood, at least to keep the wood stove burning.

Well done.

Bullshitted by Polymath on January 25, 2008 11:26 AM

Beautiful! I'm glad you took notice.

Bullshitted by Lolly on January 25, 2008 09:32 PM

I not understend what U want

Bullshitted by Вечерний макияж глаз фото on May 15, 2008 03:40 AM

давайте займемся этим!

Bullshitted by секс on May 16, 2008 04:24 AM