Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Colorado Chainsaw Massacre

I cut 'em up just the way my daddy taught me. At first I didn't do any of the cuttin'. I was just holdin' 'em down for pappy. Livin' as we did way up in them mountains, there weren't many folks around to hear what we were up to. We did things the old way. We used a chainsaw. We used axes. We didn't use g's at the end of our gerunds. I don't live that way anymore. All those lives I cut short. But they were dead already, weren't they? I live in the city. I don't even have a fireplace. I've got no use for firewood anymore.
But I used to. My whole family did. It was how we survived. I learned that it was my job to drag fallen aspen trees up to the side of our cabin where we would saw them into foot-long chunks. We called these "stove size." I remember sitting on the sawhorse, feeling the vibrations of the machine as it moved closer to me with each cut. It wasn't a precise operation, but it was an operation. When we had a pile of logs, we stacked them against the side of the cabin, under the eaves where they wouldn't get wet in case of rain. Then we would start all over again on another fallen tree. Set it on the sawhorse, cut it into stove size logs and stacked those on top of the others. We did this until the sun went down, and sometimes when we really needed the wood, we would light a lantern and work into the night.
There was no running water, electricity or gas. Not in pipes, at least. The gas we used went into our chainsaw. We turned that into the kinetic energy that became the potential energy of that stack of logs. Then they had to be chopped into pieces. We didn't use a chainsaw for that. We used an axe. There was a prescription for how to make those big round logs turn into pieces that could be easily shoved into our wood burning Majestic stove. Since my mother cooked our meals on that stove, she needed to have some moderately clever way of keeping the temperature consistent. That meant we couldn't give her a bunch of great thick chunks of wood. She needed control. She needed pieces that would burn quickly, but not too quickly. When mom cooked, we used more wood. That meant we were outside making fuel.
When my father wasn't home, the kids would use a hand saw on some of the trees of lesser circumference. Eventually, he taught me the way of the chainsaw. Prime and choke and throttle back. He used to point with his figure where the next cut should come. That's how much trust he had in me.
The hills around our cabin provided a seemingly endless supply of wood for the fire. We stayed warm. We stayed fed. And that's where the story starts to sound again like we were a family of cannibals. So that's where I'll stop.

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