I spent all day Saturday lumbering, literally lumbering, with my buddy Clark. He makes cool stuff out of wood, true. But did you know that he also cuts, hauls and mills that wood? Now you do. At the far end of Southern Fulton County on a hilltop above Route 70 there are acres and acres of woods and pasture where the wild things grow. Lately it’s a black bear that has been added to the list of foxes, coyotes, beavers, turkeys, deer, rabbits, mink, skunks, etc. Friday night we rode about spotlighting for shiny deer eyes (@@) in the pastures. We saw a bunch though not as many as Clark would like. “Never thought I’d say this, but there are too many acorns this year. The deer stay in the woods all the time. It’s a helluva thing!”
However, hunting is later on, after Thanksgiving. This week was all about lumber. A guy named Bob brought his portable saw mill out to Clark’s and parked it next to the falling down barn. Don’t you even begin to picture a majestic Swiss bank barn. Think low budget, termite-ridden, miracle- it’s- still- standing barn. Actually where we worked was somewhat level because a hillbilly housetrailer had been on that spot until it was burned to the ground under not so mysterious circumstances. Ma and Pa Outlaw Squatter Hillbilly had no place to call home after that tragedy. Before leaving, they had threatened to burn the whole place down. They got some of their wish granted. Thousands of nails, screws, hinges, and other bits of metal remain in the charcoal dirt mix.
Bob and his son got to work leveling up the trailer saw mill, which is basically a horizontal band saw on a rail. What a contraption! Plus they had a 60 inch two man chain saw with a 96 cc engine, a small motorcycle engine, folks. These guys knew what they were doing, which made my incompetence all the more stark by contrast. Bob told me that I was “arms and legs” in the operation, meaning grunt worker. Okay, that’s what I signed up for. It was clear that he was the brain. He had a hard hat with a face screen and his name on the back, ear and eye protection as well. I had an old Boston Red Sox ball cap.
Clark’s 70+ year old neighbor Kenny ran a Bobcat with a claw front on it. He picked up the huge walnut trunks that were being slabbed off, three inches thick. Clark and I wrestled these dusty beasts off the sawmill and into a tractor bucket, to be stacked later. Two years, folks, for two years these things just dry out, losing maybe 40% of their weight. It was quite a production. Bob ran a metal detector across every trunk searching for wire or nails that would ruin his blades. Wouldn’t you know it, the very first log we cut into had been plugged with concrete decades before and the saw bit into a chunk of concrete about the size of a football. Inauspicious start, possibly nervewracking since Clark was on the hook for damages. However, there were no further damages if you don’t count the one slab that got away from us and hit my shin.
We worked like a small industry with the division of labor being perfectly clear despite the absence of any conversation about who would do what. Being the last to the party, I just followed orders from the Buckmaster, who began addressing me as Quasi Moto. It was already a long day before dawn when Clark began making noise and coffee at 5:00 a.m. The sawmill dudes didn’t come till 8. I think it’s a control thing, but I had sworn a sacred oath of obedience as well as no overt insubordination or offering of improvements on his ideas. To bark with Clark would be like biting a dogwood. Or like trying to pee up a rope. There is a truth in there somewhere, Blog Blossoms. Still, in the first hour of the operation he lost a steel wedge and an 8 foot chain, a measuring tape, and other less important things that we have all forgotten. He claimed that his wife Pat is the one who remembers where he puts stuff, and since she wasn’t there, he was blameless and helpless. I can second the helpless. I did not promise him anonymity in the blogosphere.
The day began frigid, high 20’s but warmed up to the mid 50’s in the afternoon. It was calm and sunny once the sun climbed over the eastern mountain ridge. The smell of fresh cut sawdust permeated the site. Each of us turned to fully catch the sun’s rays against our shivering bodies. Moving was awkward at first but more choreographed as the routine became clear. Clark had a stuffed wild turkey breast simmering on the wood stove inside the cabin and I was glad that he did by the time we got to the lunch hour. (Still I pondered, ‘Why did he get up at 5:00 a.m.? Where are the ibuprofen?’ but I was bound by the lumberjack oath.) Being real men we returned for the afternoon session and hammered away until I left the operation at 4 p.m. as the chill of the western ridge shadows turned on us. Only once did we start laughing from exhaustion and nearly drop a 150 pound slab on our toes. Not too shabby for a guy who normally lifts no more than 20 sheets of paper at one time.
I felt like the unoiled Tin Man as I creaked and ached on my way home to my beautiful wife and an hour of dance lessons on a cold concrete floor covered in asphalt tile. Oddly enough and maybe because of the physical mangling of the day, I actually danced better than before. Perhaps because I could not think of anything to distract my left, right, step, close tango moves, I began to feel the music in my shredded muscles and contorted joints. Still, my wife was leading from the other side until I took charge. “Woman, I am Lumber Jack Flash. Back off!” And things went smoothly from there on.