Upon looking back, the best autumn chore — and simultaneously the worst — had to be restocking the wood pile for winter.
I grew up on nine acres in rural southern Ohio, and this property included a stream meandering through a ravine of trees. Invariably, spring rains or summer thunderstorms would turn the stream into a raging torrent of muddy, brown water; thus, felling one of the mighty trees that lined its banks.
Forever the opportunist, my dad never bought a cord of wood in his life. Figuring that a tree that had fallen across the stream had lived its useful life, he chose such downed trees to provide our firewood for the winter. My dad never cut down a tree that was perfectly alive and well.
Besides, dad had a small and willing army of young beavers who could turn a downed tree into a stack of firewood before lunch on a Saturday. Jerry and I were the two oldest boys, so we manned an antique, two-man saw that only Paul Bunyan would recognize. It was our job to cut the downed tree into fireplace-length logs. Next down in age were Joe and Jeff, and their role in the process was tree trimming. They manned smaller, one-man saws and hatchets to remove the limbs and branches from the tree. Dad was the only person to brandish a modern wood-cutting tool, a chainsaw; thus, Jerry and I struggled to stay ahead of him.
Once the downed tree was cut into logs, all four of us boys took turns with axes, sledgehammers and a wedge to split them. After that task was completed, the logs were loaded onto a small wagon and hauled up out of the ravine.
The autumn chore of restocking the wood pile for winter was the best because of the laughter and family bonding time we shared while doing a hard day’s work — and it was the worst because of the blistered hands and sore backs it left us with.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Read more stories about autumn chores in Autumn Farm Work: The Best and Worst Chores.