You never know when your pile will collapse

Sharon Kennedy

While putting wood in my brother’s shed one day last week, I picked too many pieces from one side of the pile and it collapsed. I had almost finished my chore so the wood tumbled over on the outdoor pallet, not on me. I knew it was going to happen if I pulled one more stick from the row, but I did it anyway. You know how that goes. You’re absolutely certain something’s going to go wrong, but nevertheless, you do it. Take for instance when I was 21 and tried to turn Dad’s car around without hitting the tree. I knew I was too close, but I thought maybe I wasn’t.

When I heard the fender crumple, I wished I had listened to that little inner voice, but you know how it goes. We hear it cautioning us, but we ignore it. I wasn’t in trouble when I got home. Dad just shook his head. He always looked the car over when I returned from a trip to town. He’d usually find a fresh scratch or a tire going flat from a nail I’d picked up on the sideroad.

The bent fender was the first time I actually hit something unless you count the time I backed out of the garage and paid so much attention to missing the ditch I hit the side of the garage. Then there’s the time I left the emergency brake on and wondered why the Chevy was barely crawling down the road and what that funny smell was. Dad didn’t yell at me. He just paid a mechanic to fix whatever I had ruined. Then later that fall he married me off to a fine young fellow and from then on I was my husband’s problem!

But back to the wood pile. Although I’m slowing down and don’t work as efficiently as I did ten years ago, I like helping my brother. As a kid my chore was bringing in an armload of wood for the kitchen stove. I never helped with the buzzing or stacking. At this stage of my life, I rebel at any form of routine exercise so handling wood during the summer and autumn is my chance to get some fresh air and a healthy workout. I’ve also learned to listen for the telltale sound that signals a stack is ready to collapse.

The first time I tried my hand at stacking, Ed warned me not to put too many pieces on one row before starting the second one. I heard his advice, but I didn’t listen. I figured since I was stacking against the wall of his outdoor shed I could make the row as high as I wanted. After all, I reasoned, the wall would prevent anything from falling. That was the first time I heard wood speak to me. It gave a little grumble before toppling over. Luckily, I had enough sense and room to get out of the way. From then on, I learned the right way to get the job done.

So why did I ignore the lesson from 2007? I don’t know, but as soon as I pulled the last piece of maple from its resting place I wished I had left it where it was. I was tired and sweaty and disgusted with myself so I didn’t do anything more than throw two tarps over the wood, get on my bicycle, and pedal home. Those of you who read my column know Ed lives just down the road from me on the 80 acres that were once the summer home of our Herefords.

A few days later I wanted to finish the job, but it started to rain. Then the weather changed and it was too humid for me to venture much farther than my leather chair. Then it cooled off a bit and I had to cut my grass so the yard wouldn’t look like a hayfield. Then it rained again. Every day I look at the calendar and know if I don’t get with it, snow will be here and wood will still be sprawled across the pallet. It’s not that my brother can’t stack it himself. He can, but I feel it’s the least I can do for him. It’s my way of thanking him for all he does for me.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much more than a simple gesture to tell someone we love and appreciate them. Sometimes a helping hand is all that’s needed. It’s more complex if a friend is struggling with major health issues or an addiction. Our area has been hit hard this summer with young people perishing from self-inflicted wounds or accidental drug overdoses. It’s sad to hear someone has given up at an early age.

We oldsters know life’s a battle from the first slap at birth through dotage yet we carry on hoping tomorrow will be better. Where did we get such courage and from whom? I know my parents set the example for me. Dad was always kind, and for years Mom walked across the road with a meal for her brother and helped him harvest his vegetable garden for market.

So as long as my hands can handle the wood, I’ll help my brother. My stacking won’t be perfect because nothing in life is, but I’ll see the job through to the end.