Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Free Firewood? It's True!

The high topped 90-degrees yesterday and I received my first e-mail of the year requesting free firewood.

“I understand that you are giving away free firewood,” wrote Kenneth M. “I rely on firewood for cooking and for heat and would love to receive a free truckload or two of it. Please sign me up for this fantastic service!”

I used to be thrilled whenever a stranger e-mailed me asking for 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.

Now I’m feeling more and more like a bit of creep because five or six people each year are gullible enough to fall for the world’s lamest joke.

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 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 fireplace implements at our side, while the wind’s blowing 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 fireplace instruments to bash each other’s brains in.

But to enjoy the fire, you need an ingredient more essential than even dry matches.

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

I’d been warned that they are among the most boring carbon-based life forms on the planet. I was told they spend long days out there among the oak, maple and pine, 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 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 (most 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 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 yearly delivery.

But the reaction was always 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 out to harvest some lumber, marginally making 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 arms or being crushed to death by a falling timber.”

I never dreamed when I conceived the site that people would actually think there’s such a thing as free firewood.

See, the joke is that the site doesn’t specify how much firewood I deliver for free.

So I invite readers of this blog to visit -- and to let me know if you need any free firewood. 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 woodsmen. And good luck with that.

Those guys exactly grow on trees either.

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