Firewood Frolics

in which I witness the effects of excessive testosterone

Here’s another story about Aaron, an Iraqi war vet with whom I once worked. We were polar opposites and had a contentious working relationship.

At Echoing Hope Ranch, the autistic residential care facility where we worked, Aaron had a pretty good idea: he and I would go out to National Forest land nearby, cut firewood, bring it back to the ranch and split it up, then sell it at the local farmer’s markets, or deliver it to customers.

Once we were on the road in Aaron’s 4WD pickup, which was towing a big box trailer, Aaron revealed to me that he really didn’t have a cutting permit from the Forest Service.

“They cost $25.00, Larry! They won’t check, and if they stop us, I’m a good bullshitter — plus, the wood will be out of sight in the trailer.”

“So basically we are engaged in some sort of federal crime, eh?”

“Oh, calm down, Larry! I’ve done this many times!”

It was a pleasant fall afternoon. We had driven over Coronado Pass, then down into some lowlands along the Mexican border. The vistas as we drove down were spectacular, marred a bit by the border wall.

Aaron said, “Look! There’s a bunch of dead oaks over by that corral! Let’s go get ‘em!”

“What the hell, Aaron! If there is a corral, doesn’t that make this private land? It’s somebody’s ranch, not National Forest land!”

“Well, that “somebody” ain’t here!”

We rapidly worked up several trees and nearly filled the trailer. On our way back to the pass Aaron abruptly stopped the truck on a concrete bridge which spanned a dry wash, but there were evident signs that the wash had been brim full during last year’s monsoon rains.

Aaron said “Look down into that wash! That snagged tree would just fill up the trailer!”

We grabbed our chainsaws and clambered down into the wash. The tree was an old barkless oak jammed up against the bridge abutment.

We sawed a few rounds off of the trunk, but it soon became apparent that both of our saw chains were dull. The wood had grit embedded in it. The chunk that was left was about eight feet long and sixteen inches in diameter. Aaron said:

“C’mon, Larry! Let’s just manhandle that log up to the truck!”

We managed to move the log a bit, but I was having doubts. It must have weighed five or six hundred pounds.

“Now, Aaron, I value my back! I’m not going to strain my back for thirty bucks worth of firewood!”

“Aw, ya wuss! I’ll do it myself!”

Aaron, grimacing fiercely, hugged that log and heaved it out into the open. I’ll be damned if he didn’t raise that log ten feet up to the road! He dropped it near the trailer, bent over, panted, and the sweat dripped from him in a steady stream.

I felt no remorse for not helping him. I thought “He’ll get to be my age and his back will take its revenge on him for abusing it so.” I did help Aaron get that log up into the trailer.