A Tall Tale by Jerry Birkby
In this modern day of chain saw and
hydraulic log splitter, it is hard to imagine the
prodigious feats our fore fathers (and in some cases,
fore mothers) could perform with an axe. And thereby
hangs a tale. Most names have been omitted to protect
the innocent although philosophers have argued through
the ages whether anyone is truly innocent.
"It was 1933 and I was cuttin'
wood on the old Biggins place over on Horse Crick.
They was sellin' the timber off in acre plots and
I had bought two acres. It was pretty fair timber;
lots of ironwood, some red oak, and a little burr
oak and a locust or two throwed in. Most of it was
about the size of a telephone pole, nice and straight
and easy choppin' for the most part, so I begin to
think about settin' a record of some kind. I was just
a young buck then and just chuck full of vinegar and
some other stuff besides so I thought, 'Why not?'
"Now a cord of wood is a pretty
good day's work for a man with an axe, but I begin
to believe maybe I could do two cords, so I gets up
extry early one morning and heads for the timber.
It was still pretty dark when I got there, so I chunked
my axe in a handy stump, hung my coat on a fence post,
and when I seen the first little red sliver of sun
peekin' over the horizon I laid my hand on my axe
handle and lit in a-choppin'.
"I'd chop down a tree, lop off
the limbs, and buck it up into eight foot lengths.
We mostly done it that way and then we'd get old Clarence
Allen to come in and cut it into stove length with
his buzz saw. Fact of the business, it was there on
the old Biggins place that Clarence lost his leg.
"Never stopped for food ner water--jist
kept a-choppin' 'til I seen the sun was getting pretty
well down in the west and then I dropped my axe and
commenced to pilin' what I had cut. About half-way
through the second cord I seen it was goin' to be
purty tight, and, sure enough, when I throwed the
last stick on I was about half a dozen sticks shy.
"I was jist sick. All that work
and to come up short by a little dab like that most
killed me. But what're you goin' to do? A man can't
very well say he's done something 'less he's actually
done it; not if he's any kind of a man anyways.
"So I moped around there for a
few minutes a-cussin' and a carryin' on and then I
headed back for the house. It was purty rough goin',
but the moon was up pretty good by this time and when
I gets down to where I'd left my coat I see something
bright shining there in the moonlight. I couldn't
quite make out what it was so I says to myself, 'Now
what in the world can that be?' and I get to lookin'
and, by golly, it's the head of my axe still a-sticking
there in that stump where I'd chunked 'er that morning.
I'd been a-choppin' all day with just my axe-handle
and hadn't ever noticed."