I fought the log and the log won.

th-1We now have an 8-by-8-foot shed nearly filled with firewood. The good news: It’s free heat, from about 20 trees felled on a couple of different properties.

The bad news? We’re not done, because after about seven hours the rented log-splitter broke.

After about six hours of trundling and stacking firewood my arms and shoulders feel very, very surprised. I expect tomorrow’s workday will be very challenging indeed, given that I make my living with my hands as well as my head.

Now I know why people had so many kids way back when: free labor.

Not that I worked any harder than anyone else. My niece and her two boys were there, and DF was unstoppable, feeding log after log into the splitter. We alternated tasks: bringing wood to him, loading the split pieces into a wagon or onto dollies, transporting the finished product across the yard to the shed and stacking the pieces as neatly as possible.

Ultimately I ended up doing most of the stacking. I always did love Tetris.

The value of work

After a few hours we took a short break for homemade iced tea and a sit-down in front of the fan. It was in the 70s (very warm for Anchorage) and relentlessly sunny. Although DF had climbed a mountain with his son the day before and covered at least 10 to 12 miles in the process, he was in his usual hard-working and cheerful mood.

“I’m splitting wood in the hot sun – I fought the log and the log won,” he sang as he walked inside.

For those of you too young to remember, he was riffing off an old song by Bobby Fuller. (Check that kah-razy gogo dancer in the background.)

By the time the splitter gave up the ghost we’d gone through more than a gallon of tea and four trays of ice cubes. Both boys worked quite hard; I was impressed by how strong they are at almost 7 and almost 12. Their mom kicked butt, too, and I struggled to keep up.

Why labor so hard? Because we’ll get a winter’s worth of lovely evenings by the fire, and because I want the boys to learn the value of work. Payment was not mentioned when their mom brought them over; the day was framed as “they need our help, so we’re going to help them.”

I did pay them, because I also want them to learn the value of being rewarded for hard work. But I couldn’t help sneaking in a moral: When you turn 14 and can look for a part-time job, then you can put DF down as a reference. He can vouch that you are a hard worker.

Yep, you can get working papers at 14 here. I happen to know that the McDonald’s about a mile from their house hires workers of that age. Legally they can’t work very many hours, especially during the school year. But I believe they need to get into the habit of working for what they want, both now (toys, movie tickets) and in the future (a car, college).

Work is the rent you pay for your spot on the planet. No time like the present to start putting together their down payments. I just hope their arms don’t hurt as much as mine.

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  1. I remember that of all the places I’ve lived the attitude of “they need help so we help them” with no compensation expected is the most prevalent in Alaska. Of course there is quid pro quo – you’re expected to pass it along/forward/back when the time comes. I think it’s a great attitude and more people in the Lower 48 need to have it.

    But I also love that you paid the boys and hinted about the reference. 🙂 Good job there!

  2. jestjack

    Good times….Wood gathering and splitting has been going on here as well. Few things give one such a sense of accomplishment as a freshly cut…split and stacked pile of firewood. Just look at the money you’re saving on gym memberships!

  3. Good for you and the boys! The reference thing throws so many kids (my sons included). They did a day like your nephews in Colorado and were surprised when they needed a reference and I suggested the guy they were helping. He was delighted to help out that way.

  4. Can you hear the applause from Georgia? I’m clapping and shouting ‘BRAVO’ to you and your family for teaching kids that (and this is a marvelous quote!) “work is the rent you pay for your spot on the planet”.

    I also remember stacking wood — we did buy ours split, but it was just dumped in the yard and we had to put it away. Heated with wood the last two years in Northern Michigan, and swore that I’d never split kindling again! Nothing is warmer than a woodstove, though.

    Hope your arms forgive you, Donna.

  5. ImJuniperNow

    Wasn’t that you playing the “Log Lady” character in Twin Peaks some time back?

  6. I so look forward to these posts, Donna, and the replies are great to read, too. Our wood stove is shot, so we haven’t cut wood in the last year or two. We want to move soon, so we don’t really want to replace it here. But I can vouch for the fact that there’s nothing sweeter than a warm wood fire on a cold winter’s night. Glad you had such a nice day with everyone!

  7. ImJuniperNow

    The Beatles were singing “The Log and Winding Road” on the radio in my car at lunchtime.

    When I go home tonight and watch Star Trek reruns, I’ll be waiting for the “Captain’s Log” part with new enthusiasm.

    Don’t forget, it’s a log, log way to Tipperary!!!!!!


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