Tuesday, January 31, 2012


"Buddy" Tabor loves wood.  He is obsessed by it.  He was a lumberjack in his younger years, and you can tell, even at 73, that he loves being out in the woods.  He's slowing down now, and has some health problems, but he knows trees like no one I have ever met.  He calls them by name like they are his family.  He knows almost every tree that grows on his 20 acres of Pennsylvania forest land.  Give him time and he will tell you about how he once cut 1000 locust posts for fencing, and carried them out of the woods on his shoulders and split them by hand.  He'll tell you about the red oak tree he cut down that was 66 inches across at the base.  He'll tell you about how he would count each piece of firewood he cut, and could recall the exact number of sticks that filled his woodsheds.  He'll tell you about how every year in December he would go out walking and return with an arm load of spruce boughs so the house would smell like pine.  That's him in the center, standing with me and my brother in the kitchen.

I remember as a kid, helping with "the wood."  What that really meant was that I would stand around and watch my father cut firewood for hours on end, stopping only to put more gas in the saw and to drink ice water out of mason jars that my mother would bring up for us.  Sometimes he would use hammer and wedges to split the logs into smaller pieces where they lay, other times he would hook a chain to an entire tree and drag it out of the woods with the tractor and cut and split it down near the house.  I remember the time he brought home a handmade maul to split firewood.  It was a piece of pipe with a wedge shaped piece of steel welded to the end.  I could barely lift it, but he would work for hours, splitting log after log after log.  Sending that steel wedge driving through logs, drenched in sweat, and happy as could be.  If you haven't figured it out by now, he's my hero.

I just got back from Pennsylvania on Sunday afternoon.  I spent the weekend cutting wood with my dad and brother.  I think I enjoyed it as much as my dad did.  It was nice to spend some time together in the woods.  We cut down, sawed and split a pin oak and a honey locust as well as split a few cords of red oak that was already on the ground.  I think dad should have enough to last him the rest of the winter now.  We sat in the kitchen later that evening and talked and laughed together.  Drinking a few cups of hot coffee and nursing our sore muscles.  I'll remember it for a long time.

I have been sitting here for the last 15 minutes thinking about how much I hated helping cut wood as a kid.  I mean what 15 year old would want to go out and carry firewood for hours and hours on a Saturday morning?  It must have made an impression on me though.  Maybe it was because my dad loved it so much.  Maybe because deep down I knew that it was the wood that kept us warm all winter long.  I don't know for sure to be honest.  I can tell you though, beyond the shadow of a doubt, I love wood too.  Thanks Dad.

Before we carried the saws to the house, Jim and I cut down a small cherry tree.  He took a few pieces and so did I.  I've got a post or two planned to talk about that though, so until then happy carving.

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