Monday, September 22, 2008

Out on a limb for free firewood

I was thrilled, as I always am, when a stranger e-mailed me this morning asking about how he could get some free firewood.

As anyone who’s ever seen the homepage of knows, I’m the world’s leading purveyor of free firewood. No joke. I’ll send anyone, anywhere in North America, free firewood.

With home fuel and heating prices skyrocketing, can anyone name a better deal?

Of course, you can’t.

It all started about 15 years ago. Val and I had a lovely little house with a cozy fireplace. I pity those of you who live in places like Arizona or Florida that suffer from year-round sunshine. You’ll never know the pleasure of cuddling up with a loved one in front of a warming fire, charming fire place implements at our side, while the wind’s blowing blizzards and trash cans across the desolate lawn.

Go ahead, feel free to pity me right back this February when cabin fever has us all so crazy we’re ready to use those charming fire place instruments to bash each other’s brains in.

But to enjoy the fire, you need the one essential ingredient -- and I’m not talking about dry matches.

You need wood. Lots of it. And for that you need an authentic woodsman.

I’d been warned that most woodsmen, around here at least, are among the most boring carbon-based life forms on the planet. I was told they spend long days out there among the oaks, maples and pines, and that they must spend most of that lonely time trying to converse with the bark.

This I found to be true. The woodsmen I’d hired to bring me a cord or two each fall universally seemed -- and pardon the pun -- "stumped" whenever I’d speak back.

Plus, they seemed to be a bit -- and here I go again -- "shady" in their woodsmen ethics. They’d bring less than promised or lettuce green wood that just insolently hissed at me rather than combust.

That I didn’t mind. What I could not tolerate was that not a one of them ever got my firewood joke. And, damn it, it’s funny. I’d spring it on them each time when we’d finished stacking.

I’d say, “Well, friend, how much do I owe you for this ‘ere wood?”

“I reckon (many woodsmen are reckoners) you owe me $125.”

At this point, no matter what the price, I’d feign shock. “Gee, $125! That’s a lot of money. I guess firewood doesn’t grow on trees!”

Silence. Nothing.

See, it’s funny because firewood is actually one of the few products you can buy that actually does grow on trees.

Had I ever found one bearded woodsman who’d have slapped his torn jeans and said, “Ha! That’s a good one! Firewood don't grow on trees! Ha! Ha!” I would have invited him inside for a beer and signed a 25-year contract for annual delivery.

But the reaction was always the same: dumbfounded silence.

So I decided to hell with the whole sorry bunch of them and ran out and bought my own chainsaw. Each year now I head into the woods and harvest my own timber, something that marginally makes me, a guy who talks and types for a living, feel at least a little bit like a manly dude.

And each year as I kneel down and light the first warming fire of the fall, my wife expresses her gratitude and support by saying something like, “I’m amazed you’ve made it another year without chopping off one of your limbs or being crushed to death by a falling tree.”

So if you’ve never done so, please take a minute to visit and be sure to let me know if you need any free firewood.

And to my new friend, Dave S. in Glenview, Illinois, you can expect your shipment to arrive in the next week. Look for it in your mailbox.

It’ll be free. It’ll be wood. And it’ll burn. If properly lit under mild wind conditions, there ought to be enough to set the delivery envelope ablaze. I suggest you put some paper and twigs around it if you want to kindle a bigger fire.

But first you’d better find an honest local woodsmen. And good luck with that.

Those guys don’t exactly grow on trees either.

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