Reconnecting with your wood
The trees stood all around me in a circle as if watching my careful move with the Echo or the Stihl. I lay one throbbing saw on the ground as I eyed a 30” diameter mesquite tree and wondered if I could drop it right onto the flat bed of my 1950 one-ton Dodge truck. I decided I could. I reached for my chainsaw but responded quickly to the flash of a tongue and a nerve-chilling rattle. The five-foot rattler coiled 2” from the warmth and throb of my chainsaw sensed me, saw me, heard me and smelled me as with one eye on the prized tree and the other on the chainsaw I stumbled through the cactus to retrieve my saw. I hooked a branch through the handle of the chainsaw and tugged it from the coiled and now poised snake. My shotgun was in the truck, but it’s unlikely I would have shot it. Now I wished I had pulled on my Redwings on instead of my soft-soles but there was no way I could leave the tree now that I had found it and the chainsaw belonged to me.
I backed the truck tight up to the mesquite and dropped the top branches all around me. Even the flailing limbs would give me a truckload of 16’ diameter wood and fill my load alongside the 8’ log laced with burls and mistletoe planted by the scrub jays and others.
As my work with the chainsaw came to a close and the now naked stump had lost its crown, I poised myself for the last cuts that would drop the tree half way up the rear end of the truck bed. I had hoped the higher point of balance would allow me to pivot the log with a come-along onto the bed and square in the middle. So, focussed on the tree, I finalized my cuts and the leaning tree snapped the last one inch of wood and the tree thudded against the back corner of the bed of the truck. A herd of Texas longhorns had now surround the fallen limbs. They love the sweet mesquite beans. I drew the truck forward and hooked the come-along around the far end of the bed behind the cab. Slowly the tree yielded like a prized buck along the bed and with a second come-along I swiveled the huge mass of raw mesquite along the bed until it hit the back of the cab. I didn’t know the weight of the tree and the branches now lying alongside it, but i guessed the truck springs would hold. I only knew that what I made from that mesquite would feed my family for the next few months. Where I lived and worked in Reagan Wells, Texas was the remotest place I ever lived. When I was out in that wild land I was at my happiest. There was lots of risk and danger. It was wildness at its peak and survival could be hard on a man. My next door neighbour, Dolph Briscoe, owned a million acres of the wildest of wild hill country ranchland. Imagine, a million acres. Janey Briscoe and her husband owned a chunk of land there too. As I drove back through the wilderness of Reagan Wells, across the Dry Frio river beds I remembered the furore of flash flooding that raised many feet over the rocks I was then driving.
Back at my place the Woodmiser, now loaded with the massive trunk, slabbed the tree into new book-matched boards sequentially cut and stickered to dry for a year or two beneath sheets of tin. This, for me, was real woodworking. I fed my family and paid my bills, shipped out cutting boards and rolling pins made from slid mesquite and lived a real life working real wood. That’s Paul Sellers, working wood in a real world.