Tales of a mountain man

My June road trip has now stretched into September. One consequence is $166.18 in additional beef jerky and RC Cola expenditures. There have been other expenditures as well. Yes, I’ve got some explaining to do. We might as well get started.
In my defense, I’ll start by noting a broad distinction. In Saipan’s climate keeping cool is, of course, the big thing. In the mountains, by contrast, keeping warm is the big thing. Many people heat their homes with wood stoves and around these parts the first frost hits in September. .3
With this in mind I sought the counsel of a local woodsman. I wanted to produce some firewood for a property owner who I’m visiting. The property owner is girding for her first winter in the northern climes. Her acreage is full of trees.

The woodsman surveyed the scene. He said there are enough fallen trees to last a winter. There’s no need to mess with the standing trees; not now, anyway.

He gave me the plan. “First you buck that stuff into rounds,” he said. “Then you split the rounds. It looks like you’ll be able to get a few cords out of this wood.”

The process of slicing up the trees already on the ground is called “bucking.” This requires a chain saw. He said he’d be back in a week to show me that end of things.

The slices of a bucked tree are called “rounds.” My task in the intervening week was to split some rounds that we found on the east side of the property. Splitting converts the rounds into logs that will fit into the stove.

The old-school way to split rounds is with a maul, which is a type of fat-headed axe. A typical maul weighs eight lbs. I get my history from Monty Python movies, but, as good as they are, it took an 8-lb maul and a pile of rounds to really put me in touch with how my 14th-century ancestors lived.

Now that we’ve covered that end of things I’ll continue with the lumberjack terms. If you’ve got a stack of logs that measures 8 ft. long, 4 ft. high, and 4 ft. deep, you’ve got a cord of wood. This equates to 128 cubic feet.

A “face cord” is a description that sort of straddles area and volume. It’s a stack of wood 8 ft. long, 4 ft. high, and is one course of logs deep. On this note, from what I’ve seen, logs are typically cut in lengths running from about 14 inches to 20 inches. Just how big a log should be depends on just how big the inside of the stove is.

This cord thing is no trivial element in commerce. Some places have laws regarding the term’s use in transactions.

Anyway, after I bought a maul, split the rounds, and bought a chainsaw, I did some Web-surfing about using chainsaws.

I started off on that path complacent and even a little bit bored. But I kept seeing more ways for things to go wrong than to go right. I called a friend and asked him what he thought. In response he sent me an E.R. doctor’s account of how a patient sawed through his own femoral artery before even realizing that something was wrong.

A sensible and practical person would probably acknowledge that detail and keep reading the report. But me, well, I got stuck there.

After all, I don’t even like cleaning fish. Severed femoral arteries, especially my own, are not my forte. I considered that I should stick to realms where I’ve got professional training, and none of this involves limbs of any form, type, or description.

Anyway, the day soon arrived when the woodsman showed up for the big chainsaw-and-bucking event. I asked him the value of the wood that would be produced by the process.

“Oh, about $500,” he said.

“That’s it? Five hundred dollars?”

“Yeah. You thinking of turning pro and selling wood?”

“No,” I said, “I’m planning on going wuss and buying wood.”

So I invited the woodsman into the breakfast nook for tea and scones. It’s a good thing there were fresh doilies in the cupboard.

After the woodsman left I noticed he left his work gloves on the table. That was three weeks ago. He still hasn’t returned my phone calls.

Anyway, I’m ready to close the books on August and open them for September. I’ve got three entries in the works:

1) Oolong tea and organic blueberry scones: $4.35.

2) Three cords of wood, including delivery costs: $449.97.

3) Avoiding any further contemplation of the term “femoral:” priceless.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

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