Bringing in the wood

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange has been bringing in his woodpile, a satisfying job that seems to get a little harder every year.

(Lange) Oh, I do love a good woodpile! with its square-cut ends lined up just so, bespeaking a sense of the aesthetic – and vanity. I like to just look at it, once it’s done: piled straight as a string and sheltered from the rain with sheets of corrugated steel salvaged from an old hunting camp.

Trouble is, it can’t last. Like good cooking, it’s meant to be consumed. Lately I’ve been tempted to buy a load of split wood to burn, and leave the pile for decoration, like a pair of oxen that never gets used. But I can’t do it yet. Anyway, the woods around the house are growing faster than I’m culling them, so I guess I’ll stick with it for a few years more.

But I did put off bringing in the firewood this year. There was enough downstairs to last till January, anyway, but any day now, the pile was going to get soaked in a cold rain and frozen solid. I’d have to beat it with a maul to break it up. Playtime was over. If I believed in the principle of wood heat, it was time to prove it. I kept thinking of the farmer whom his neighbors saw plowing his fields with his bull. When they asked him what in the world he was up to, he said, “I just want to show that bull that life ain’t all romance.” Well!

Saturday was the day. Dog woke me at 5:15. We got the paper, fed the furnace, started the coffee, and cooked breakfast to the six-o’clock news. Ready to go by seven. Couple Motrins for the sore hip, a mug of coffee on the stone wall, a little air in the wheelbarrow tire. That pile looked pretty long. As I went through it, I came across little veins of one kind of wood or another — birch, ash, hard maple, hardhack, hemlock — and tried to remember what caused that tree to come down. After two years it was a little hazy, but what I couldn’t remember, I made up.

All day I loaded the barrow, chased it down the hill, threw the chunks into the cellar, and climbed down to stack them. Break for tea and a biscuit and a mail run at 10:30, another one for lunch and a quick nap, and by 3:30, as the light began to fail, I almost had it. Five more loads at ten minutes a load…I was going to make it, if I had to feel for the last sticks in the dark. Which I almost did; but at last I found the stick I’d been looking for all day. Dumped it into the cellar, put away the wheelbarrow, closed the chute door, and called it a day. A good day, too. I glanced out through the thickening darkness. No more woodpile. Time to start all over again.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, just wallowing in work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire.

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