My son, Damon, suggested we go cut firewood Friday evening.
To me, cutting firewood is one of those activities that can be greatly enjoyed for a half hour or so. After that, it is more like work than getting outside to enjoy a little fresh air and exercise. Fortunately, I got busy and was unable to meet him at the appointed time.
Along with the rain we had this summer, we have also experienced some tremendous wind storms. Enough trees were taken down this year, both Damon and I should be supplied with dry wood for several years, just cleaning up the downed trees. Two huge, old, white oak trees were split just north of the cabin in an open pasture. It is an easy place to get to so we decided to start there.
When my wife and I pulled up to the appointed tree, what used to be a large oak tree was a huge pile of firewood. Damon and Amanda were taking a break and the grandsons had taken off over the hill, doing whatever two boys can think of doing with unlimited energy, almost unlimited pasture and timber, and one hatchet.
Damon was not anxious to get back to work immediately so he offered to sharpen my chain saw. I never turn down an offer to get my saw sharpened, especially if it is by someone that is better at it than me. I sawed a few pieces of wood and we called an end to the wood cutting outing. If nothing else, I do have good timing. We loaded both trucks, a trailer, and sat back to admire the fine work we had done; all six pieces I cut and the several hundred he and Amanda cut up before we got there.
Several logs, just the right size for sitting, were arranged around the stacked pile of brush so we decided to rest a bit and start the brush pile on fire. The dry leaves quickly caught and we had to move our seats away from the instant inferno.
Amanda made a run home for some hot dogs while the rest of us enjoyed the pleasant day next to the fire. It was getting dark when Trevor and Zane came back to where we were. I asked them what they had been doing. "Building a bridge," was the answer.
I had not heard that from two little boys for thirty years. Trevor and Zane's dad and uncle did the same thing at about the same age. They spent hours building bridges to cross the ditches in the timber. I asked the grandsons if they had finished the bridge. It was almost done. I asked if I could drive the tractor across it. "No!" was quickly and firmly stated. I asked if I could walk on it. They said I probably could, but maybe I shouldn't. I was getting a feel for the scope of the bridge. I would not have to worry about the cows going somewhere they should not on the newly constructed bridge.
Amanda fortunately had brought the long-handled hot dog roasters. Even with them, the fire was still hot enough to curl one's eyebrows. We talked, laughed and enjoyed the evening as the temperature dropped and the fog moved in across the lake. I looked across the dam and could see what appeared to be eyes in the distance. They seemed to be moving slightly up and down as they came closer. We all stopped what we were doing and watched, trying to determine what it was. The fog was now rolling over the crest of the dam like a slow-motion waterfall making the evening all the more eerie. The eyes kept moving in a slow bobbing motion like an animal was walking toward us but we could not tell that it was getting any closer.
Zane thought it might be an alligator. Probably not. I thought it was a deer, but we could now tell, it was not getting closer. Trevor suggested it was a mountain lion, just checking us out.
Nanna finally said it might be the 400-yard target at the end of the dam. The fire is reflecting off the white surface and the fog passing in waves makes it look like it is moving. It is not as exciting as a slow-moving alligator or mountain lion, but she was right.
When the fire died down we all headed home. It was a pleasant evening spent in the outdoors and I got an easy load of firewood out of the deal. The boys stretched their imaginations on construction projects and talk of scary things coming to get us. Cool fall evenings are meant to be enjoyed by family in the outdoors.
Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.