Chopping Wood

Splitting axe with curious chickens

Splitting axe with curious chickens

It was a few weeks ago, I guess, that I first began to experience it — feelings of inadequacy as a man.

I was in the kitchen cooking some dainty little dish or other when my pal Ernie stopped by. We hugged and had just began to chat when my wife came out of the back.

“Ernie,” she said, “Can I ask you a couple things?”

She proceeded to lead him around the house. While I fluffed eggs and stirred sauces, Ernie answered miscellaneous manly questions about plumbing, cabinetry and general carpentry. I was relieved they didn’t talk about football or boxing. Leslie never asked me about plumbing, cabinetry and general carpentry. Sure, I was always feeding half the canyon, but…

Did I need to man up?

I have friends who are cowboys, fishermen, carpenters, lumber men. And what do I do all day? Make dainty dishes, paint pictures of flowers, and write poetry. A few days later, I was out in back tending to the chickens, when I noticed a mountain of seasoned oak logs that had been sitting in place collecting leaves for the past two years. I knew immediately what I needed to do.

“Give me the biggest, heaviest axe you’ve got,” I said to the customer service associate at Home Depot. I got home and proudly announced my new purchase to my woman.

“But babe,” she said, “My dad just bought us an axe recently.”

Aha! As if I needed it, here it was — humiliating validation. So convinced was my father-in-law of my inadequacy in being able to provide in the basic necessities of life for his daughter that he bought me an axe.

One of my dainty dishes.

One of my dainty dishes

The axe — that perfect symbol of pure, elemental manliness. Fortunately, the axe my father-in-law gifted us was a light version — a couple pounds to my new 8-lb. monster. What kind of dandy did he take me for??

My friend James, who shoots deer, builds fire shelters, drives Mule ATVs around his property and is missing a finger, rents a wood splitter when he’s got extra logs. But I wasn’t going to take the easy way out — I was going to use nothing but sheer brawn. I was going to work the land the way men — men — had for hundreds of thousands of years.

Splitting wood would be something new to me. I trolled around on the web for some instruction, and stumbled upon a website called “The Art of Manliness” that featured categories like “Dress & Grooming” and articles on “Manly Skills” including planking and cooking a salmon in the wild; crafting a sheath for your buck knife; making a rope and swinging like Tarzan; and sure enough, how to correctly split firewood.

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I put on a t-shirt and my cowboy hat and headed outside to the log pile. The first few tries were exercises in futility and frustration.

“How’s it going, babe?” my wife called out from the window.

“Oh, uhh, great… yeah, great!!!!” I lied. And then proceeded to adjust my gloves and examine my log while she watched so that she would not see me striking the dirt, knocking the log over, cursing at the axe inextricably stuck in the wood, spinning like a top and generally failing miserably.

But after awhile, I started to get the hang of it. I might begin with a smaller axe, find a fissure in the wood that I could exploit, open it a little wider, then come in with the heavy artillery. I still cursed and spun and send logs tumbling down the mountain, but I was making progress. (There were good lessons to be learned here about persistence and self reliance that I might pass along to my son — sorry, daughters, you would have to learn these things some other way…)

And then it happened — the satisfying splintering sound of a log breaking in two, and then in four.

Soon, I had an admirable pile of split firewood. Sure, it had probably taken me the same amount of time to split three logs with my axe that it would’ve to go through the entire pile with a rented log splitter. But I had done it with nothing more than muscle and tool.

Come winter, I would be back in the kitchen, no doubt. But as I sat down to eat my bowl of braised meat, I would look at the fire burning in the hearth and feel a deep, enduring sense of satisfaction. More importantly, my wife would look across the table at me and think, “There he is — my man.”

My nascent woodpile

My nascent firewood pile

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. michellejoycebond
    Sep 24, 2013 @ 00:24:37

    That is wonderful! My husband’s manliest task is mowing the lawn…when gets to it. Your wife is a lucky woman. 🙂


  2. Pal Ernie
    Sep 24, 2013 @ 01:23:13

    Yeah but you bought your axe at the Depot! You could have borrowed mine and the sledge hammer you need to finish it off! Tell Leslie I said HI! LOL!


    • scolgin
      Sep 24, 2013 @ 01:46:21

      Is THAT what the sledgehammer is for!??


      • Pal Ernie
        Sep 24, 2013 @ 02:08:34

        To finish pushing the splitting maul through the log. And by the way there is nothing dainty about that 5+pound “T” bone that you had marinating in Miso and Sake! Where is the photo of you gnawing on the bone. Now that is mainly!

      • scolgin
        Sep 24, 2013 @ 03:27:20

        I think I let Donnie gnaw on that one — what was the even MANLIER thing to do…

  3. Mom
    Sep 24, 2013 @ 03:11:59

    I have always been proud of you but this is beyond my wildest dreams. Leslie scored.
    Also very funny, which is what I’ve always loved best about you.


  4. Marie -Michelle Hewett
    Sep 24, 2013 @ 07:00:30

    well, that’s new! a recipe for chopping wood! have you grown more chest hair since that experience? so funny, I love it.


  5. pal-O
    Sep 24, 2013 @ 12:02:50

    Wow buddy!! You are making some mighty, manly leaps there. Is there a poem hidden somewhere in your foray into “manliness”? You could use a lot of thudding, crashing, cracking and banging consonants to push the verse into a hairy, muscled mannish-boy life. Proud of you Seamus


  6. Jessamine in PDX
    Sep 25, 2013 @ 05:30:04

    This whole post had me laughing. I, for one, do love a dainty plate of food though I also enjoy a roaring fire in the winter. Sounds like your wife gets the best of both. =)


  7. Par-ee
    Sep 25, 2013 @ 22:38:13

    “The Art of Manliness” Great website. I found it whilst on a obsession fueled pocket knife info recon foray. Every man needs to carry a sharp pocket knife…. with a corkscrew preferably. I’ve never doubted your manliness. I’ve known you too long and I know where the bodies are buried. 😀


  8. heather
    Sep 26, 2013 @ 23:31:46

    How sore were you after all that choppin’?? When we were roommates – I distinctly remember you telling me you were NOT a plumber, NOT a repair guy, NOT a handyman!
    lol – love this! 🙂


  9. thefatcook
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 14:30:12

    I’ve been reading the Art of a Manliness for years. It basically started when I refused to continue using Gillette Mach 3 razors and reverted to old fashioned double-safety razors. I’ve saved a bucket of money and gotten a better shave since. Wow, completely off gourmet topic!


  10. Atik41
    Feb 20, 2016 @ 06:48:02

    I think I let Donnie gnaw on that one — what was the even MANLIER thing to do…


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