Working Up a Sweat Hauling Firewood

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Autumn is taking its sweet time getting here. That did not stop me from making a pilgrimage to procure a load of firewood from my brother-in-law’s farm near Jefferson. Besides, I needed to get some lumber for a future woodworking project with a friend. That is where it is stored, inside a rustic horse stable. It was a lovely day, cool enough to drive our 1965 Ford truck and fill the bed with well-seasoned red oak. The truck doesn’t have air-conditioning, and this was the first chance to drive it without rivulets of sweat obscuring my vision.

My friend accompanied me. We drove through the Northeast Texas countryside, admiring the leaves turning, the cows grazing. Excursions such as this remind me how rural East Texas remains, something easily forgotten when inside Longview — where chain restaurants and new bank branches spring up nearly every week. And trees are felled by the acre to accommodate another load of asphalt, brick and mortar.

But drive a few miles out of town on a country road, and the houses are spread out, business establishments closely clustered around tiny towns like Ore City and Avinger. In between for long stretches are rolling pastures, thick groves of pines, occasional stands of hardwood, especially along creeks — what we call the country. Someday we hope to live in such a venue — just not too far out. My BMC and I want a barn, critters, quiet. We plan to implement Noah’s Ark farming — no more than two of anything, except possibly chickens. A couple of Longhorn steers, two donkeys, a pair of goats. A half dozen hens should be sufficient.

My friend and I arrived, after an hour of inhaling the fragrance of Indian summer breeze wafting in, mixing with the gasoline/oil smell of this old truck. The Ford F-100 smells like trucks are supposed to, the smell of trucks when I was a kid. It’s an honest scent of a truck ready to be put to work. (It is also about to be for sale, if anyone is interested. Email me.)

After we loaded the long bed with lumber and firewood, I discovered the truck would not keep running. This happened a few weeks ago after my BMC took a 50-mile drive. After that, another buddy showed me what to do. The idle drops after it gets warmed up, and one must tighten the screw to increase the RPMs. It is ridiculously easy to do, twisting the screw with one’s finger. I would not dare mess with the carburetor on my year-old Rav4. I don’t actually know if it has a carburetor.

That fixed the problem and we returned without incident. I left the firewood in the truck and put the cover back on it.

Several days later, ambition struck. Plus, I needed to take the truck back to the shop to undergo a final once-over before advertising it for sale. It has a rebuilt engine and all the accessories, and the fellow who did it advised we drive it a while and then bring it back for a check-up. Parts loosen, gaskets fail, etc. This meant I had to unload the firewood.

Of course, the day was unseasonably warm, hovering just under 90 degrees. Here is the scenario. I take the wood left over from last year off the rack, which in the off-season is below the deck, out of sight. Using a tarp to drag this rack, which weighs about 75 pounds and is 8 feet long, I pull it slowly up three sets of steps to its spot outside the back door, about 150 feet away. Then I must carry the firewood using a hand truck that can hold about 10 pieces through a gate, past the pool and up another trio of steps.

There is something counter-intuitive about hauling firewood while sweating completely through one’s clothes and the do-rag on my head. I sprayed myself down with Deet before starting. My BMC last summer kindly decided to haul the stack of wood left, after we had a small tree cut down, to the rack. Turns out chiggers had invaded the pile, and before it was over she was covered in bites. She suffered seriously for a couple weeks, had to get a shot and was simply miserable. I felt terrible since I had put off moving the pile for weeks. She got tired of seeing it in the front yard. Bad husband.

The firewood is now on the rack, under the cover of a second-floor balcony. Another small stack is near the outdoor fire pit. As soon as we can quit using the air-conditioning, it will be time to light a fire, whether inside or outside.

And then it will all be worth it. I do love a fire.

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