Lumberjacks, Snakes, and Woodstoves

We don’t have a wood stove. Even our fireplace is gas flames licking around ceramic ‘logs’. It even has small fiberglass coals that glow orange when the gas flames light up. Our wood use is relegated to the fire pit at our seasonal campsite, which we try to get to every weekend. Since last fall the three empty lots to the south of our house have been cleared of brush and trees and three new spec homes fill the ‘void’ between us and our nearest neighbors. I had asked the contractor what he was going to do with the trees he pulled down. He said: “Put them in your yard if you want ’em.”
After letting them sit through the winter I’m firing up the chainsaw and cutting them up for splitting and stacking. Partly so that they’ll cure faster but also because we’ve been finding snakes in the woodpile…big snakes. One reminds me of a Water Moccasin, thick body-two to three feet long, color and markings fit but we’re told they don’t find them this far north. I’ve never seen a puff adder this big and it didn’t have a rattle. The dogs are curious; Carrie is not. She did take a good picture of it though.

Is there such a thing as a wood snake? Cutting wood with my dad and grandpa we always ran into snakes. It was inevitable. When my folks married they bought a tiny house on five-mile rd on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids, then in the late sixties when our family grew too big for it, we moved, briefly,into my grandma’s house while our new house was being built on our old lot. It wasn’t long after we moved into this house that dad decided we needed a wood burning stove in the basement to keep the gas bill down. We made regular trips north to The Woods for fuel. Early on he would borrow a trailer to haul the wood behind his Plymouth Fury. This was the car of choice for the discriminating lumberjack.The wood was piled in the back yard just waiting for the unlucky soul chosen to start the splitting process.

There I stand in the back yard, sweating through my WLAV Tshirt, shoulder length hair matted to my neck, jaw and forehead. There was no such thing as a man-bun; that guy would’ve been laughed out of the neighborhood, and I didn’t do ponytails. So I suffered. We had mauls, wedges, axes, (one and two bladed), and sledge hammers. After making pretty good headway for a couple hours dad appears with the savior of the hour: the new Chopper 1, a splitting maul with side levers built to force the wood apart once the blade bit in far enough for the levers to catch on the wood edge.

All my fifteen year old brain thought was: “Where the hell was this thing two hours ago?” I tried it out and it actually worked quite well! ‘Try it before you buy it’ would’ve given two thumbs up!
Dad said: ‘Take a break. You want a cold drink?’ I nodded as I pulled my hair back and tied a bandana across my brow. To my suprise, Dad came out with two Budweisers and tossed one over. It was ice cold and tasted great! I’m guessing ice cold anything would’ve tasted great. ” if you’re gonna work like a man you might as well have a man’s drink.” (*just don’t tell your mother).
Dad and I split the vast pile of wood and stacked it. We didn’t really talk about anything but wood and the Chopper 1, angles and force and dad cutting and stacking wood with grandpa up north. We went through two woodstoves while i still lived at home though that was only about another six years.There was a time when the only thing between me and the warmth of that woodstove was a bath mat…but that’s another story.

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Kevin is a Life biographer, factual and fictional. Humorist, Dreamer, and Romantic. "I wanted to live deliberately. suck all the marrow out of life".

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