Cuttin' Wood


| February 2004



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Buzz saw rig

The aroma of fresh-baked cinnamon bread wafting clear out to the washroom as I entered made me forget my frozen fingers and nose for a moment. My wet gloves, partly iced around the edges, landed on the flat, metal heat register near the hallway, clear evidence that I'd been helping Dad cut wood out in the snow. It was our unwelcome chore every Saturday on our Michigan farm, and grew less welcome as winter wore on.

Yet, the reward was always that first bite of hot cinnamon bread with icing dripping off the edge. Mom baked the best cinnamon bread in the world! A little butter hastily spread and I had a treat fit for a king. With hot cocoa to wash it down, we were ready for the second part of the Saturday wood fest: Unloading the big stake truck full of cut wood into the basement. We kids were all home from school to help on week-ends, which was good because our big, two-story farmhouse consumed that huge truckload of wood every week in the dead of winter. Between morning milking and chores and evening milking and chores came wood cutting.

Our wood-burning furnace in the basement seemed like a monster to me. Huge pipes snaked out in all directions, and we could throw 18-inch-diameter chunks of wood through the big stove door with room to spare. On the plus side, that door saved us many hours splitting the wood into smaller chunks.

The sound that came through my upstairs register at five in the morning was my wake up call for many years. First, I'd hear Dad move the big lever on the stove grate back and forth several times to give the fire enough air. Then, I'd hear the big chunks of wood tumble into the fire and the clank of the hinged fire stopper just inside the furnace door. The basement stairs were right below the stairs leading to the second story, where I lingered in my long underwear beneath warm, flannel sheets. Finally, I followed the sound of Dad's footsteps as he climbed the basement stairs, walked down the short hall and paused at the door leading upstairs.

'Harry, time for chores,' Dad called in his unforgettable voice.

Reluctantly, I'd crawl out of the covers and reach for my flannel shirt and bib overalls lying beside the warm register. Wood-cutting time had come again, and no matter how cold it was, there was no escaping the chore.