Thursday, February 05, 2009

You Shoulda Seen the Other Guy

So where was I... Oh yeah. I got into an argument with an oak tree. The other morning I was out there in the comfortably chill sunshine doing midsized standard cherry logs bam-bam done, bam-bam done, bam-bam done etc., it was getting monotonous, so I decided for a change of pace to split that one old gnarly chunk of oak that had the look of trouble and had been laying there in a woody grump for more than a month now, the way troublemaking chunks of oak tend to do - you work them when you have the time, patience and energy (read 'in the morning sunshine'), and are willing to spend some time untangling the puzzle of knots they present.

This chunk of oak had clearly led a vexed and difficult life; the scars of a troubled youth and a harsh upbringing were apparent in its demeanor and arborality, the torques and vectors of its grain reflecting a history of struggle in an unforgiving environment, buffeted by stressful winds and weather, deprived by hardscrabble nourishment. It had not been a happy tree and, as one is largely the result of one's upbringing, it was not a happy chunk. Earlier split from the friendlier portion of a larger trunk, it was about a quarter of the original, about 25 kg of solid torque.

As usual I set the section up on the chopping stump, sussed out the angles, the knots, the grain, the power vectors and whatnot, positioned the wedge for optimal effect and began pounding it in little by little, keeping the maul on, knowing that this was going to be a lengthy process, as it can only be with such a piece of wood. I could hear the oak microsurrendering to the slow but insistent advances of the wedge, the crack was growing, all was progressing nicely toward the big split when I was suddenly standing puzzled in another branch of the reality bureau. I could not figure out what had happened to the moment and my perception of time. How had I gotten here? I was still holding a tool, there was a piece of wood in front of me, my name began with an R, and a wedge was no longer there. That was a clue.

Fortunately I'd been wearing my safety glasses, the new ones I'd just gotten, that have a soft flexy bridge, and that's where the wedge hit. So I got about 20% of the impact above and 20% below the bridge. A few bandages later and all was restored, except for the shiner and a half I was gonna get for the first time since I was ten. (No, I'm not posting a picture.)

Later, when looking out the front window at the chunk still sitting smugly on the chopping stump (was that a smirk?), I noticed that the upper surface of the section was not level, as usual, but slanted - ever so slightly, not enough so I'd notice when beside it - toward where I'd been standing. That crafty old oak, aiming itself. Add another lesson to the the growing pile.

Oddly enough, other than a brief dim headache it didn't hurt, until later when Echo told me something that surprised me and I said OW! My eyebrows had shot up. So as long as I live a completely predictable life for about a week or so, I'm fine. I don't know if I'll be able to stand it. OW! I just read more about the US economic bailout.


ted said...


I'm not gonna ask again if this is your honyaku.

Back in my Yonago garden laboratory, I performed my own experiment involving wood, sharp objects, and gravitational physics.

My conclusion?

Boy, a head sure can bleed.

Bob Brady said...

Yeah, it was a small wound, but lots of blood. Healed up quick though; hope yours did too. More injuries than I've had in about 60 (pretty hazardous) years, so maybe this is honyaku related... I'll tread carefully, as if that helps...

Project Hyakumeizan said...

Many thanks for this cautionary tale. I have split elm logs for firewood in the past - many and time and oft has the wedge gone singing past my ear, fortunately without making contact - but oak seems to be a grade tougher still. Presumably that's why they made battleships out of it in days gone by ....