We’re gearing up for winter here and got a load of firewood. I was chuckling as I was helping to stack it that I was experiencing some flashbacks.
I recall the energy crunch of the 1970s pretty clearly even though I was a little kid. My parents built a house with electric heat and after a $400 heating bill (remember this was the 1970s. The dollar was larger), Daddy got a wood stove.
We didn’t buy firewood. There was a lot of building going on back then, and we’d follow behind loggers clearing land to get the laps — tops of the trees that were too narrow to be useful in logging, but certainly big enough to burn. At the time, it was free for the taking. We’d just take our station wagon out into the woods, Daddy with his chainsaw and Mom, my brother and I would work together to get the logs into the back of Clyde (We named the station wagon after the camel in the song Ahab the Arab). God, did my brother and I whine and complain about those trips. We lived in a neighborhood where most of the Daddies had government jobs just like ours did. We were the only kids we knew of that were hauling wood and we were indignant. Dad would usually retort, “You like going to the beach and Disney World, don’t you? This is how we can afford it!” That didn’t silence us nearly as well as it should have. Why I never internalized that I was doing real work that contributed to those things, I do not know. If I had, I’d’ve been as proud of it as any of the other things I bought with money I’d earned myself, I think. Obviously my parents looked at it that way, or Daddy wouldn’t have made such a retort in a moment of irritation.
Daddy would always try to get logs less than nine inches in diameter. That would fit into the stove and he wouldn’t have to split much wood. We didn’t have powered log splitter, but used a modified heavy axe with two levers on either side called a Chopper. There’s a video at the site that shows how it works. It’s quite clever. The site says it has been around since 1977, so we must have bought one of the the first ones made. I was in my mid-teens before I was strong enough to be able to split a log using it, and was pretty stoked when I managed it.
After the wood was cut and split, my brother and I stacked it. Yes, there was whining and complaining about this, too. Not only did we have to stack wood, it had to be stacked neat and pretty. Yes, yes, a neatly-stacked woodpile is safer and more stable. My brother and I were convinced that it was more because of my mother’s sense of aesthetics.
We did not bring the wood through a door into the house, tracking dirt and stuff everywhere. Nope, not in my mother’s house! The wood stove was in the laundry room in the basement where Daddy had rigged a vent system with a thermostat and air blower to send warm air around the rest of the house. The room in the basement had a window. When the woodbox needed filling, my brother or I (or more likely both if we were being especial pains in the ass) went outside after dinner to push logs through the window to either Mom or Daddy to stack and fill the woodbox. As we got old enough to stack the wood well downstairs, we’d usually fight over who got to stay inside and stack the wood that was passed through that window.
When I started dating, it was not unusual for boyfriends to be helping with this…