6/29/09

The Woodmizer

Out here in the backwoods of Wisconsin, it’s a simple life. You love your family, you eat your breakfast, and you work hard. Today is all about working hard.

We’re going to cut some wood. Uncle Larry, Uncle Bricksalesman, and the Hossman. Get a little sweat in me, get my hands dirty and build some character. I want to call my father and tell him at 34 years of age I’m still building character. Daddy, Daddy, watch me! I’m building character! Watch Me!

Uncle Bricksalesman and I are asked how we got “roped in” to this Uncle Larry job. Hell ladies, we didn’t get roped in, we volunteered! We are going to cut some wood and be manly. I might spit a little bit.

We round the corner of the trail. I’m in the back of the truck. We pass by several of the locals in the woods. These guys are hard. One is lighting a cigarette with a blowtorch. I don’t point out the numerous safety code violations.

We pass another guy and we exchange a nod. It’s just a simple nod but it says a lot. It says It’s hot but there’s no use complaining about it. It says that taxes and fuel costs are high but what are you going to do? It says the local team needs a new pitcher or a new coach. It says that my wife just left me. I told her to take the kids but leave the dog. Women would never get this. But men, it’s just understood.

In the suburbs cutting wood means that you go to your local store and pick up some pre cut wood that you will actually never use other than a decoration next to your fireplace because you actually have a heating system. But here, I’m assuming that I’ll actually get to use an axe.

I’m mistaken.

We stop in a clearing and there are logs. Not brush and not branches, I mean full on logs. 15 feet long and thick enough to crush a toe in suburb sandals and Old Navy shorts. Hell yes, this is what I’m talking about. Let’s cut some wood.

I see the chainsaw and my mouth waters. Give me one crack at that, boys. My kids and wife are at the house and there is no one to caution me to be safe. Just turn your backs and give me 10 minutes with that thing and I’ll have some firewood.

But the chainsaw isn’t for me. It appears that it isn’t for anyone. Before I can even highjack it and give one good pull, there is a deep rumble from the trail we just left. I look over and out of the woods comes The Mule.

Sweet Jesus is it beautiful. It’s a cross between a bulldozer and my wettest dream. On the back end of it is a trailer with a large mechanical hook. It’s the kind of hook that you see loggers use. Screw the chainsaw, I want to drive that mamba jamba. Immediately I take off my underwear and throw it at the driver. I want to have his babies.

Uncle Larry and Hans, the driver of power incarnate, exchange a few words and then he gets to work. He goes through the downed logs and starts hosting them up. Crushing the bark yet gentle enough with the machine to caress the sweet wood beneath. I want to hug it.

I regret not taking Little Hoss with me. She would have dug the crap out of this. That’s one of the great things about having kids. A lot of times they get excited about the same stuff you do and there is nothing better than getting excited with a three year old. Because you can let all kinds of loose. You can run around in a circle clapping your hands and screaming your head off and no one judges you. It’s awesome. But she’s not here and I regret it but it’s going to be a cool story to tell her when I get back.

He loads up 9 logs and now I am sure the awesomeness is going to begin. Are we going to crush the logs with the big hook? I know it makes no sense but I still want to do it. It a big hook after all, why wouldn’t you want to crush it?

But nope, Uncle Larry says that we are taking it to the saw mill, time to get in the back of the truck. Crap.

In the back of the truck I go and we go through the trails and county roads some more. We come to a trail and follow that until we reach a barn. Odd place for a barn. Uncle Larry tells us to get out. Maybe I’ll get to ride a tractor, that would be cool. Not as cool as the Mule, but not bad. Thresh some wheat and collect a subsidy check. But the Mule, that would have been awesome.

It’s all forgotten though when Uncle Larry begins to take the tarp off a big machine in the clearing and I hear the Mule coming from the other side. What is this?

It’s the Wood Mizer HT40. One of the sweetest machines ever made. Something that I have only seen on the Discovery Channel when I watch shows about wood working.

I misunderstood Uncle Larry. When he said that we were going to cut some wood, he actually meant it. Not fire wood, no that’s not what he meant. He meant we were going to make our own lumber. Kick Fucking Ass.

The Mule deposits it’s load next to the Wood Mizer. Uncle Larry grabs a hook on a 4 foot poll and begins muscling wood toward the machine. Uncle Bricksalesman and I just sit there and gape. We let a 79 year old man muscle a thousand pound log because both of us are absolutely sure he knows exactly what he is doing and we would just crush our fingers. We only move when he tells us.

The log gets rolled up and Hans, who also runs this machine, begins making measurements. He says that he has no idea why he makes measurements but he believes that it looks good so he does it anyway. He is my hero and I nod at him. Everything is understood.

The he starts the Wood Mizer HT40. I am giddy with excitement and again I wish that I brought Little Hoss with me. The next ten minutes is Hans cutting the sides of the log so that you end up with a big freaking piece of square wood. It’s a huge beam. Then he actually makes lumber out of it. 2 by 15 and 13 feet long, glorious.

I’m thinking of everything I know about fresh cut lumber and wood and begin peppering Uncle Larry with questions. He is my god now. How long do you let it dry. How much shrinkage do you expect. Is Hans currently dating anyone? And Uncle Larry answers everything with a smile on his face and a story to go with it.

The amount of lumber coming off this one tree is amazing. Give me just two trees and I would have enough wood to last me for years for my little projects. Uncle Larry tells me that this is how he got his current supply of cherry, mahogany, pine. All for a fraction of a cost that suburb people like me would pay for it. He says these boards are free minus the cost of the milling. The owner just wanted some of them gone. He says that there are 200 more logs at the site but he doesn’t need them. These are for flooring for a barn. I want to move to the Wisconsin backwoods.

Hans is now trying to wrestle his latest board off the pile. Oh captain my captain, I will move that board for you just so I can get closer to the Wood Mizer HT40. The chainsaw is all but forgotten now as I am making plans on distracting everyone for a moment so that I can push a button. Whether you are 6 years old or 34, you always just want to hit a button.

Uncle Bricksalesman and I both grab an end and continue doing this for about an hour. Now this is cutting wood.

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