Chopping wood… splitting logs satisfaction

By Randal B. Thatcher


Chopping wood… splitting logs satisfaction


Since moving from the city, my wife and I have become intimately acquainted with many country chores that demand our attention: Seasonal tasks that were never a part of our city lives, like weeding, and fence painting, and tree pruning, and weeding, and gutter-cleaning, and sprinkler fixing, and…did I mention weeding?

And there is a certain satisfaction derived from each of these jobs—that feeling of accomplishment and of having completed yet another task on that perpetual TO-DO list. But there is one particular chore that I find far more satisfying than all the rest, and it involves wielding a large, sharpened axe!

Why do I find this activity so profoundly enjoyable? It’s work, to be sure; and hard work at that. But I’ve discovered I would rather chop wood all day long than weed the flower beds for even a single hour.

And it’s not just me…

When we first moved to our country home in Spring City, we inherited a big stack of fir logs in the yard, along with a couple of very old axes; and whenever our young nephews would visit, the first words out of their mouths were, “Can we please split some logs?” (The answer was invariably, “Yes, you can!”)

To these teenage boys, chopping wood became a game, and eventually (as does virtually everything with teenage boys) a competition.

Even my 88-year-old Mother-in-Law has fond memories of her own bygone days of wood chopping, as a girl, to feed the wood-stove in their Moroni home. “It brought peace to the soul to heave an axe into a big stump of wood, and know those exertions would bring warmth to our home and to our bones,” she smilingly reflected.

I know there are, in these modern times, gas-powered, hydraulic log-splitters, that will, according to their advertising, “…offer relief from the back-breaking work of splitting logs.”

Except that I like that back-breaking work of splitting logs, and actually prefer the 19th century methodology employed by the likes of that Ol’ Rail-splitter himself, Abraham Lincoln, along with famous frontiersmen, like Daniel Boone. And I’ve always loved the lore of Paul Bunyan, that mythical hero of North America’s lumberjacks, known far and wide for his axe wielding strength, speed, and skill.

What’s more, I live in an old pioneer home, and like to believe that my progenitor—that hardy Danish pioneer who built this sturdy little structure back in 1875–is somehow gratified that I am faithfully keeping to his more traditional methods.

There is just something immensely satisfying about driving a spitting wedge into a big log with a sledge-hammer, then listening for those audible cracking sounds from within.

My 20-year-old neighbor, who’s been splitting wood his whole life (since a wood-stove is their family’s only source of heat), becomes downright philosophical about the endeavor. Splitting logs, to him, is an apt metaphor for life: “You cannot split a broad stump in two with a single blow,” he considers. “But by small degrees, pounding a wedge into its center, little by little, you begin to create cracks in the solid mass, until you eventually break it open; then these pieces can be likewise split; and split again, until you finally achieve your goal of transforming a huge log into stove-sized pieces of fuel.”

This guy speaks my language. He and I have both felt that sweet satisfaction that invariably comes from splitting a length of wood cleanly down the middle, with a single, well-aimed axe blow.

I still keep those old axes around for the nephews, but my wife recently bought me a newer axe, specially made for wood splitting, which I carry jauntily over my shoulder, like a modern-day Paul Bunyan.

I keep wondering whether the novelty will eventually wear off; whether I might not someday wish for that fancy, labor-saving, hydraulic splitter.

It’s possible, I suppose. But I doubt it. It’s just too much fun reporting to my city friends that, “Oh, I’ve just been out in the yard splitting wood.”

“Wow!” they exclaim. “Like Paul Bunyan.”

“Yes,” I reply, with cool nonchalance. “Exactly like Paul Bunyan.”

But, should anyone ever invent some automated contraption that will keep our yard perpetually weeded, well… that I would buy in a second!


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