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Physical fitness in the outdoors

I enjoy cutting firewood.

Honest, I do.

It is nice to go to the woods on a sunny winter day and have a good excuse for being there. I not only improve the timber stand, but heat my house for almost nothing.

It costs almost nothing if a person does not count the cost of the chain saw, splitter, truck, trailer and assorted accessories. One can not count the entire cost of the truck in the heating bill as it is also used in hunting. Truck expense can be evenly divided between heat and food. This breaks down the cost of heating to $1,000 per month and burger at $50 per pound. If we call hunting and cutting firewood entertainment, the food and heat is free. I prefer to think of it this way. Entertainment expense is not tax deductible, but we all have to do something to maintain our sanity.

Saturday, my son Damon, and I decided to run out back and get a quick load of wood. The top had blown out of a huge old hickory tree and the center had rotted out. There was still a lot of good wood to be harvested from what remained.

The log splitter was parked beside the log when I backed up beside it. Deer and other wildlife tracks crisscrossed the newly fallen snow in the pasture between two patches of timber. With the temperature around 20 degrees, it was perfect wood cutting weather; warm enough that important parts of a person's body do not freeze off, but cool enough we did not have to fight the mud.

I started cutting on one end of the log. Damon watched until I cut off a section then hauled it up to the splitter. Sawing on a big lot like this is rather mindless entertainment. A physical workout is accompanied by having to think of nothing other than not cutting off one's leg. The worries of the world are drowned out by the whine of the chain saw.

I was working along in my own little trance-like state when I felt Damon put something in my pocket. I did not think much of it, assuming an extra glove or some important recipe had fallen out. When I finished my cut, Damon did not grab the log. I glanced at him to see a silly grin on his face. I was not sure what he had done, but was sure I was not going to like it.

I reached into my pocket. Something warm and fuzzy was trying to get out. I wrapped my hand around "it", not sure what "it" was. When I pulled my hand out of my pocket, the two beady little eyes of a mouse stared up at me. The mouse appeared to be as startled as I was.

Damon, standing only a few feet away, almost doubled over laughing. He was able to dodge the flying mouse I pitched toward him. The mouse hit the ground running when he landed on the soft snow behind the log splitter. Damon was still laughing when the mouse disappeared over the hill, leaving little mouse tracks in the snow behind him. That is one mouse that will have second thoughts about making a winter home in a hollow log when he hears a chain saw.

Within an hour, we had a load of wood and just enough exercise to feel we had done something constructive. A good cardio-vascular workout is good for the body and fresh air in the great outdoors is good for the mind.

If we do not count the mouse incident, cutting a little firewood can be good for a person.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.