Rhythm

Balance. Lift. Swing. Extend. Accelerate.

Thwack.

Repeat.

The bounty of autumn is a backhanded blessing. There’s so much to do… but there’s so much to do.  And winter is coming. The satisfying soreness that follows a day in the hills after elk, deer, antelope or chukar; the easy fit of old waders as water temps drop and trout take to chasing streamers; the happy noise of football games; the clarity of clean crisp days and chilly, star-filled nights; the rattle of golden aspen leaves in the breeze – there just isn’t enough time for all of it. Days afield are inevitably lost to the demands of work, and harvest. And once gone those opportunities are gone forever. It’s maddening.

Balance. Lift. Swing. Extend. Accelerate.

Thwack.

Repeat.

Henry David Thoreau once observed that “Every man looks upon his wood pile with a sort of affection.” It’s true, but my relationship with cordwood wasn’t always so cut and dry. My dad once refused a load of split wood because, as he put it “I have two sons and a 12-pound maul. What do I need with pre-split wood?” That was tough for a teenager to swallow. My brother and I spent whole weekends fighting over who split and who had to stack. Trey was, and still is, a lot bigger than me. I did a lot of stacking.

Balance. Lift. Swing. Extend. Accelerate.

Thwack.

Repeat.

Dad wasn’t a hunter but he knew a thing or two about full autumns. As a football player, fall was the time to reap what he’d sown in the off season – one more year of employment and family security. Later, as an Athletics Director, fall was the kick-off to another collegiate school year and the time when the fruits of his efforts were made known. As a father, fall was the season he saw to cord wood being laid-up for winter, and able young hands being prepared for the demands to come.

Balance. Lift. Swing. Extend. Accelerate.

Thwack.

Repeat.

Dad’s gone now. I don’t have an heirloom gun, or favorite family hunting spot to share with his memory each fall. He left me instead a 12-pound maul, the calluses that fit its handle and the plodding rhythm needed to swing it for hours. With that I can make the most of my days in the hills, and make peace with the days spent preparing for winter.

Balance. Lift. Swing. Extend. Accelerate.

Thwack.

Repeat.

My son’s too little yet to swing a maul. He does a lot of stacking.

13 Comments on “Rhythm

  1. I can still remember my dad splitting wood. Even though we lived in town, our house was heated with a wood stove. Dad owned and operated a tree cutting company, and the logs and branches from work would get loaded into his dump trucks and hauled home. He’d put the big ones on the diesel splitter, and then chop them manually, hucking them into the piles to be covered with tarp.

    When we were up north two weeks ago, the smell of the woodstove in the cabin got me thinking of a good post. This just added to it. Thank you!

  2. Fabulous piece and a powerfully poignant homage to your father. Solid stuff…I’ll be coming by frequently as this is high quality, my friend! Cheers and have a wonderful weekend!

    Spencer

  3. Ol’ Jim Copeland left a much greater legacy than a 12-pound maul. He left a fine son who can do elegiac prose about as well as anyone I know. God bless you, Matthew. You’re a piece of work.

  4. Pingback: An Open Letter | Stalking The Seam

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