Friday, April 17, 2009

Do I Need to Prove It?

I love to work. Really I do. Didn't love it so much as a kid, but the older I get the more I seem to enjoy knowing that my body is strong; that I can tackle a physically challenging job and accomplish it. To me, there is a joy in strong work. Not grueling, backbreaking, punishing work. Just strong work that lets me feel tired for good reason at the end of the day.

So Saturday was one of those days. We were hauling firewood. Actually more than hauling. We were yarding large rounds, I mean LARGE rounds, of wood to an open area for splitting. We divided the labor, each to our best abilities. I was doing the moving and DH Dale was doing the splitting, since my attempts with the maul were nearly fultile. But skid, I could do with determination. So I would roll the heavy rounds into place and Dale would split them into six neat pieces, or eight for the especially big ones, like segments of a brittle orange.

We had found the rhythm of our work, like a reliable team of draft horses, pacing with each other, pulling evenly. As I would roll a hefty round, Dale would study the piece. "Reading the wood" he calls it. He would judge the checked cracks that mark where a round might split with deceptive ease. He'd choose the best end and hoist the heavy maul. Adhering to woods-wise protocol, the splitter has final say. The "choker setter", in this case "me", just does the yarding, bringing the log into place.

We had already hauled one pickup load and were more than halfway through our second. It was looking like the possibility of a three load day. We were making big progress on this long-standing job. The day was shining, full of Spring. It was just the right temperature for heavy work, and just enough breeze to keep the air fresh.

"Which one next?", I asked.
Dale made his selection and studied the piece as I struggled to roll it the few feet to our splitting area. We commented on a nice crack going right through the center of the end.

"This end?" I smirked as it fell onto a flat side.

"Yeah, that's the one with the crack," Dale said.

"Well, actually it was the other side," I replied.

"No, it was this end."

"Naw. It's the other one," I maintained. "Do I need to flip it over to prove it to you?" All in good spirits of course. No animosity between such a finely matched pair.

He shrugged. With a smile. He simply shrugged, as in "Suit yourself". That was it - the challenge was on.

I bent my knees, and stretched my arms over the top of the round, that Paul Bunyun-sized pancake of sorts. I put all my strength into turning the thing, flipping it toward me, straining to reveal the side I was sure had the better checking. The side I was sure Dale had chosen in the first place.

As I pulled, concentrating on the effort, my hands slipped from the freshly-barked, wet, slippery wood. I fell backwards and landed on my butt. Now, I have plenty of padding on my posterior and the ground in the area was soft with deep mulch. There was plenty of cushioning all around to absorb the impact without any major damage. Except.... except for a small stick on the ground under my left hand. Just enough to create a wrist-cracking angle. Funny how small things can cause such big problems so quickly.

Dale finished for the day by splitting that controversial round while I sat on a stump practicing my transcendental breathing. He loaded the pieces and drove us home. After an hour, when ice and elevation and Advil had no effect, we headed to the ER. Yep. My arm now is in a chic black cast, palm to elbow. And Dale has his inscription in mind, as soon as we get a silver marking pen. It will proudly read "One Tough Mother". I'm glad he thinks so.

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