The house we grew up in had a big stone fireplace. The kind with a stoop in front of it that you can sit on or use as a stage, as my sister and I so often did. Living in Austin, Texas, we didn’t build fires so much for warmth…more for ambiance. If it was fall and hit below 60 degrees outside, you better believe it was fire time. We’d grab some wood off the porch, stick it in the fireplace, light one of those really long matches, turn the little iron key which opened the gas underneath, held the fire to it and POOF…fire. I never really thought about where the wood came from. It just seemed mom would make a phone call and it would magically appear stacked on our back porch. Might I add, the back porch with the bright green indoor/outdoor carpet. (Think astroturf.) We had green carpet in the living room too; and green countertops in the kitchen…. the kitchen that had green wallpaper. I am sensing a theme here.
Fast forward 30 years or so and I’m married, with 4 kids, living in our first house to have a working fireplace. Only, we are not in Texas, we are in southern Colorado. It’s October and temperatures dip into the 20’s at night. Come morning, you need a fire, you need firewood…but,not so much for ambiance. It is cold . Repeat. Cold.
My husband and I had a conversation about the need for firewood. Later that day I came home with the phone number of a guy with a truck, we’ll call him Chuck. Chuck had a truck bed full of chopped wood that he would conveniently deliver to our porch and stack neatly for our immediate use. Sounded familiar. Sounded good.
My husband came home that same day with some pink slips of paper. Apparently he had spoken to some locals in the town…the locals cut their own wood. “Ok….” I say with a severe lack of excitement.”Have you ever done that before?” I added. He didn’t answer directly but rather pulled out a brochure from the forest service with his pink permits for a couple cords of wood. I have no clue what type of cord he is referring to at this point. My mind wanders. I picture a tree falling on our truck or one of our kids. It’s terrible. “It’ll be an adventure.”, he says.”The kids will love it.”
I smiled at him in a way that conveyed a sort of sarcastic response like, “For real?” To which he silently replied with an affirmative,yet mischievous, smile meaning “for real.”
The next day was Saturday. We packed water bottles, egg salad sandwiches, buffalo bleu chips, fruit and chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better. I have no idea how long this deal is going to take so I pack more snackie snack type stuff. We are about to venture up a mountain with a chainsaw, 3 axes, and 4 young children.
We load up, pull out our map, and hit the road…The kids are all pumped up. They have no clue we have no clue what we are doing and that’s how we like to keep it, usually.
We read the rules. You can’t just cut down any old tree. There are only certain areas where you can go to collect “fuel wood” as the forest service calls it. Then after you find the right area, you have to find the right kind of tree, the right species, the right diameter, etc. We are winding into the mountain wilderness of 50 plus foot trees and I ask, “How do you know how to cut one of these down, and,then, which way it will fall.?” I can tell by his delayed response he doesn’t know. “I’ll Google it.” I say scrambling for my phone, praying we have service. We do. A diagram sets us straight. Three cuts is all it takes and you can select what direction you want the tree to fall by where you make the cuts. Easy.
We spot our tree. It stands 60-70 feet tall and has been a victim of some crazy vicious beetle killing trees all over the area. Dead trees equal dry wood. Dry wood burns well. He winds up the chainsaw….I’m taking pics of this momentous occasion. The kids are all huddling together behind some other huge trees in the distance anticipating something earth shattering. The two year old is crying. The chainsaw scares him. “This is great”, I reluctantly think to myself.
As my husband gets to his third and final cut, we decide to rally the kids back to the truck up the hill. We know which way the tree “should” fall but we are not absolutely positive it will. So we took the safe route. My daughter carries the baby of the family. He’s calmed down. Who knows what he’s thinking. Atop the hill we watched as the completion of the third cut sent the tree crackling to the ground. The echoes thundered through the canyon and the mammoth tree took down another smaller tree as it hit the ground with a booming rebound. I’m oohing and ahhhing as I film and the kids are going crazy cheering like we do when our son scores a touchdown or our daughter nails her gymnastics routine. It’s a rush. A proud rush. My husband hops up on the fallen tree raising his chainsaw in conquest. Success.
Ok, everyone is safe….at least for now. We have to chop this sucker into logs. The chainsaw’s going again. Three of my children have axes in their hands. I’m thinking, “this is really great parenting.” My mama bear skills are in full effect setting guidelines and boundaries. I try to let them enjoy the adrenaline rush of chopping of the small branches while not simultaneously chopping off something else.
They were little mountain barbarians. Yelling with every small swing of the ax. We were all sucking air laughing in the elevation.
The cuts of wood smelled amazing…. like a Christmas tree on steroids. But no breath was as sweet as the sigh of relief I breathed when the day was done and we loaded up in the truck, covered in saw dust. We had chopped a truck bed full, or half a cord, of wood. My 7 year old son, basking in accomplishment, smiles and out of no where says, “I wish mom was pregnant.”
What?Where do those thoughts come from. Four kids is a nice size brood but apparently not enough for my first born son. I can tell you this….If I was pregnant there is no way we would have been out in the wilderness chopping down trees with 4 kids. That’s crazy talk. More than likely, I would have been cozied up on the couch suffering from the type of morning sickness that lasts all day. I would probably be popping a Zofran as I pick up the phone to call Chuck.