I love autumn. It’s a time of getting ready for a much quieter season. In that place that I lived it was a time to ‘Go for wood’. Without the wood there would be no way to warm your home come winter. So, this was an event, a coming together of family for one purpose; to make sure everyone had enough wood for the winter and then some. Along with all the other chores of this season, the harvesting, the putting up of canned goods, the brandings and filling the barns with usable hay, going for wood stood out in my mind because it was one of the more physically demanding chores that I participated in.
On the appointed day, coolers were filled with canned lunch foods, jerky and plenty of water. Pickup trucks were readied; chain saws were loaded along with sharpened axes. The ride up the mountain along roads that weren’t really roads was always a treacherous and challenging time but when you reached the top you were rewarded with a sight to behold. A view of the land for miles and miles, with crisp, clean cool air that invigorated you and made you bless the day.
The work begins and the sound of the chain saw echoes through the trees and the only sense of any other person is the sound of the same far off in the distance. As the sun finds its place high in the sky, jackets and shirts come off as sweat drips and dirty hands grab rags to wipe brows. Someone saws the trees, someone splits the wood, and someone picks up the kindling. The city girl in me had to be taught what real kindling was and how much was needed. That same girl had to learn how to split the wood so it would stack in the pickup and eventually fit into the wood stove.
Once the truck was full, it was time to eat and rest before the trek down the mountain began. Sometimes, after some rest, we’d look for pinon nuts that could be harvested. It was on once such trip that I learned how to harvest tremintina sap which could be used for everything from simple glue to a temporary wound covering. Not a bad thing to know about.
With the truck heavy now, it would be slow going on the roads that weren’t really roads. Mostly they were shale, rock, and some dirt that stretched around drops and holes and crags and ridges where shifting sand changes the terrain with each travel through. The work is not done when the truck pulls round the back of the home to where a wood shed sits far enough to keep animals who like to hang around wood piles away from the home but close enough to get wood to bring in when the air bites with cold and snow. It’s just as much work to empty the truck with one person climbing up and throwing the wood down and just as much picking it up to stack the pieces by size inside the covering. The worth of all this effort is in the cozy comfort of a pinon wood warmed home where a sense of security fights off the blistering cold just beyond the walls.