First of two parts:
R&J arrived yesterday. They are woofers from England. Under thirty-ish. Traveling around the world. Nice couple. We took them up to the arts and culture day at the school and they mingled with the fifty or so local people doing what constitutes doing at an arts and culture day. Then, when we had finished doing that, we came home in the rain and, since already wet, we decided to start on the chore of building the wood-pile.
We host woofers for a number of reasons, most of which are just ‘fun’ and the meeting-of-young-people-kinda thing. We don’t work ’em very much. It is too much work on our part to oversee a lot of work on theirs. But the exception to that is wood-getting. We need to get in a few cords of wood for next winter and that chore is getting increasingly difficult for us. NOT impossible. Just increasingly more difficult.
Hurting my back riding the motorcycle through the baseball backstop last summer didn’t help. I still feel it. Now I leave the chopping to the young men.
Well, first I teach them how to do it. Then I do it a few times to set some kind of standard and then, before my back packs it in, I stride off with a bit of a macho challenge. “Hell, son, even the little Chinese girls who come here in the summer can chop that wood. It’s not muscle work, it’s just rhythm. You should get good enough that you can just whack and whack all day. Doo, dah, Doo dah!” (to be sung to the tune of Camptown Races)
And I look like I know what I am talking about. I always wear one of my lumberjack shirts and my heavy boots. I really do look the part. I’m not light and, put as nicely as I can, I am somewhat compact. Some might say ‘dense’. Like a boulder packed in bubble-wrap. But not just a little of that is muscle. Plus I have been doing this chopping thing for a while. I have the rhythm. So, I pick up the splitting maul and, with indicating barely an effort, I split a piece neatly and efficiently. One blow. Impressive, if I do say so myself. Then I stop and hand the implement of destruction to the smaller of the two – usually the female.
What they don’t know is that the piece I chose to demonstrate on was pre-selected for being knot free and dry. A real logger could have split it with a large spoon. Still, it looks impressive and it is to them. They are impressed. So, then I give them a knotty, green piece of spirit-breaking wood and say, “Here, Janice. You try!”
The results are predictable but Janice doesn’t care. She wasn’t looking forward to swinging an 8 pound maul around anyway. But the contrast of my proficiency with Janice’s lack of it, is what we are going for. The fellow can see that this is his chance to impress me and, more importantly, Janice. His hormones are rising to the challenge. Like sap!
I discretely remove the gnarly piece and give him a nice dry, easily splittable round. He whacks. It usually still takes a few good swings but he gets through and we all ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaah’ at his burly man-ness. Janice looks on approvingly. And the guy is hooked.
Young men, eh?
I then go in and get a few ibuprofen for my already hurting back and go out to encourage the macho display a few more times before heading out to cut more rounds for the new, starting-to-sweat, macho-splitting man-machine.
But all is not quite right. Not yet.
I whisper to Janice, “I gave him an easy round to split. I gave you a hard one. Doing it this way means he is even more proud of his work, you see. It encourages him. I hope you don’t mind? If you want to give it a few whacks some time, I’ll get a regular piece for you.”
“No. I don’t mind. I do the same with him, myself. Give him something easy and then oooh and aaah. He falls for it every time. But I had no idea guys were on to this.”
“Just gettin’ in touch with my feminine side. Have to. My masculine side is sore and hurtin’. Gotta get smart like you women.”
Did a good half day. R split all day, ‘doo dah, doo dah’. But before I had a chance to come clean with J she had decided that she could ‘split’ wood too and when I eventually went back out, she was hard at it. Even my confession of ‘manipulation-of-young-men’ was not sufficient to deter her for long. She went back to stackin’ for awhile but later she took the job from her partner. She was gonna master the maul and chop like a logger.
And she did! It always takes awhile to see who has it and who doesn’t. Splitting really is a rhythm thing. Strength is a factor (tho I lie and say it is not) but the real role of strength is in keeping the maul and the chopping head straight and true at the moment of impact. A strong person hitting slightly off target wastes their energy and gets nowhere. A weaker person who hits ‘dead on’ will still split wood. She got it. She then got a good rhythm. And the wood started to fly!
Young women, eh? (Manipulating them is always harder).
It was only a long half day because these two, being English and not living near a beach (that is only possible if you live in the middle of England and even then how far can you be from a beach? But, in England, being 30 minutes away from anything is a long way), were amazed at ours. Free and plenty of seafood! In the afternoon Sal put them to work getting and shucking oysters for dinner and they also brought up a bunch o’ clams for Sal’s famous chowder. So far, so good.
I took the opportunity to have a brief nap. Old men, eh?
It’s 5:00 and time for a glass of wine. So, we will have one. They will join us when they have returned from kayaking. To us, it is a normal day. A nice one, a productive one, a physical one but a nice day. For them? It is marvelous.
And that is the main reason for hosting woofers.