I can’t let this go without saying: Happy Birthday, Mason!!!!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
The maul bounced with a hollow thunk. “Dammit!” Cody snarled, glaring at the marks in the wood.
“You wanna hear a trick?” Johnny gave him a sympathetic smile.
“I’m ready to try just about anything.”
“Okay.” Johnny touched the piece of tree trunk, about an inch from the edge, where the darker outer wood met the yellow center. “Hit it right about there. Work your way around the edge of these bigger pieces, hit ’em along the grain. Once it’s smaller, you can split it down the middle.”
Cody shrugged, took aim, swung. This time, a slab of wood about six inches wide and an inch thick split away with a satisfying tearing sound. “Ahhh,” he grinned at Johnny. “I should’ve thought of that myself.”
“I did a lot of splittin’ when I was your age. Before I was big enough to swing a go-devil, I was picking up what got split and stackin’ it. So I got to see how it was done up close before I ever had to do it myself.”
Cody turned the piece and split off another slab. “Where’d you grow up?”
“White County, outside of Cleveland. Cleveland Georgia, that is.”
“I figured. So how’d you end up down in Atlanta?”
“Long story.” Johnny wrestled a whole piece into place. He swung and hit it right in the middle: whack! it split most of the way apart.
Cody goggled. “How did you do that?”
He shrugged. “It had a big crack in the middle. If you hit it just right, sometimes they bust like that. It’s worth a try, anyway… if it don’t bust, you can always work around the edges. Anyway… I grew up around a bunch of narrow-minded people. Lots of times that happens, you grow up like them too, but it didn’t happen to me. Thank God.” Johnny finished breaking the wood apart then knocked off a piece from one of the halves. “And maybe it had to do with my granddad. He used to say, ‘It don’t matter if we don’t like how they are, it’s America and they got a right to be that way. And if you look at it from their side, they prob’ly don’t like how we are either.’ That stuck with me.” He turned the second half and broke it apart with two well-placed strokes. “Lots of people never get over the notion that anyone who’s not just like themselves ain’t normal, somehow.”
“Tribalism,” said Max, from the other side of Johnny.
“Yeah. So anyway, when I went to UGA, I found out just how different some people could be. It didn’t faze me, ’cause I remembered what Granddad said and I made some pretty good friends that I wouldn’t have wanted to take home to visit… for everybody’s sake. Matter of fact, I think Max there was finishing his last year when I started my first. Not that we ever met.
“Anyway, I majored in business. My folks really wanted me to learn a trade — you know, like an electrician — but I had a four-year scholarship. I compromised. I figured I could at least manage some kind of contractor business… the money would be better and I wouldn’t have to do real work for a living.” He laughed.
Cody hit his wood a little off-center and it split partway open. He pried it apart, using the maul to separate the slivers holding it together. “Yeah, I know what you mean. My dad probably would have gotten along with some of your neighbors. I decided a long time ago I wasn’t going to grow up to be like him. So I was kind of an outcast at school, and that described what friends I had too.” He split the remaining pieces. “But you ended up in Atlanta anyway. Roll me another one down here?”
“Yeah, I got into computers when I was in college. I saw that was the coming thing, and so I took some classes so I could at least understand the nuts and bolts of that business.” He looked around, then rolled a piece with a protruding branch off to one side. “That one’s for the hydraulic splitter. Those knots can be about impossible to break through by hand. Don’t tell Tina, but I was working for her number-one competitor. Here, try this one.”
“Hey, I had my eye on that one!” Max grinned.
“Me too!” Charles said from farther down. Kelly, who was helping her dad, walked down to Cody.
“What’s the big deal about that piece?” she asked, looking at the wood. It had a crack in the middle; Cody turned it to line it up with his swing.
“Maybe it’s gonna be an easy one,” he said. He hit the crack dead on; it split partway, snagging the maul.
“Ha! Some easy one!” Kelly grinned.
“No problem,” Cody said, pushing down on the axe handle. “It got started.” He worked the maul free and took another swing; this time, it split nearly all the way apart. “Ha! Me Ogg the Caveman! Oook oook!”
Kelly laughed. “Let me try that. Dad won’t give me a chance.” Cody shrugged and handed her the maul. “Wow… this thing’s heavy.”
“Let it do the work,” Johnny said. “Don’t try to power-drive it through the wood. It’ll do the job for you. Besides, you’ll have a better chance of hitting what you’re aiming at. And aim for the edge, about an inch in.”
Kelly nodded and raised the maul, let it drop, knocked off a chunk.
“Oook! You Klogg the Cavewoman!” Cody grunted. Kelly grinned and swung twice more, then leaned against the handle and panted.
“I think Klogg is out of shape,” she gasped. “This is a workout!” She pulled off her sweater and tied the sleeves around her neck; the tight t-shirt underneath showed a hand above and below a squashed basketball, with CAN’T DUNK THIS! printed over it.
“Yeah, why do you think I handed it over so quick?” Cody grinned, looking over the t-shirt.
“What’s going on?” Sondra said, walking up. Her voice was light, but Cody saw something flash in those dark eyes.
“Johnny and me were showing Kelly how to split firewood,” Cody said. “Um… you wanna try?”
“Sure.” Kelly passed the maul to Sondra and took several steps back. Cody thought Kelly looked both amused and a little wary at the same time… and why does Sondra look pissed?
Sondra looked at the big piece, hefting the maul. She raised it and brought it down hard with a yeaah! About a third of it tumbled away; the bigger piece fell over. The others goggled, even Johnny, then Kelly shrugged and rejoined her dad down the line. Sondra looked at Cody and laughed. “That felt kinda good,” she said. “Get some circulation in this stupid arm.” She stood the big piece back up and split it twice more, with less force. “Yeah.” She handed the maul back to Cody and picked up an armload of split wood. “Now me carry wood back to cave.”
Cody watched her go, admiring her backside for a moment before turning to Johnny. “You got any idea what that was about?”
Johnny gave Cody a wary look. “Not a clue.” But he thought: I think Sondra’s just a weeeee bit territorial.