Wood You Believe It?
One Flatlander's Musings
by Brendan Smith
I'm not one of the handiest people. I grew up in a household on Long Island,
N.Y. where survival techniques were things like knowing which bakery had the
best crumb cake.
My father, though a very successful businessman and an all-around great guy,
could speak different languages as he did business around the world, but when
he came home he couldn't figure out how to start the lawnmower. Not exactly
the ideal environment for enhancing survivalist skills.
One thing I did learn in New York was that competition for the almighty dollar
was so great that you could get anyone to do just about anything for you if you
paid for it. If you were smart you never had to do anything that you didn't want
to. It was this philosophy I brought with me to central New Hampshire twenty
The first house I lived in was heated with electricity. The system was built into
the ceiling, an idea perhaps brought back from the bizarre world where heat
Needless to say, my first winter was chilly and expensive. It was soon after that I
found out what that funny metal thing in the middle of the floor was. Someone
said it was here you could burn wood and produce heat.
Where would I get this wood? I pondered. I found a small hacksaw in the
garage, wrote out my last will and testament and proceeded into the woods
surrounding my home to saw down some trees.
Before I got too far I was stopped by a neighbor who, after finding out the idiocy
I was embarking on, showed me the best way to get all the wood I wanted.
Opening the Yellow Pages to "firewood" I saw that there were actual people
who cut and delivered wood to your door. Aahh! Taking care of my problems
over the phone. That I could relate to.
I saw there were a few different listings so I figured I had some bargaining
power. My first call was a learning experience.
"I'd like to order some wood, please."
"How many cords?"
"Uh ... just enough to hold it all together, I guess."
I soon learned the lingo and began my suave bargaining procedure. I felt I was
being taken advantage of when I was offered "aged, dry wood." Who did they
think they were talking to?! I wasn't about to take any wood that they had laying
around with no one to give it to.
"I want the freshest wood you have and I'm not going to pay an extra cent." I
thought I heard snickering on the other end.
Then I came in with the final blow: "I'll give you an extra ten bucks if you put it
in a pile for me."
I felt confident. Four cords of freshly cut wood were to be delivered and piled
for me the next day while I was at work. My sophisticated New York ingenuity
had paid off.
Arriving home the next night there was something resembling the Alamo
blocking the middle of my driveway. I thought at first that this was some bizarre
New Hampshire Halloween prank, but after realizing it was the end of
November I came to the conclusion that this was the pile of wood I ordered.
I heard a noise behind me and turned to see my neighbor, hands in his pockets
looking up and down at the pile of wood like it was a Playboy centerfold.
"Looks like you got about four cords there."
"Supposed to be," I said with my best attempt at New Hampshire language, the
fewer syllables the better.
"Little green, wouldn't ya say?'
I proudly lifted my shoulders. "Yessir! Spared no expense in buying the freshest
wood I could get."
"Green wood won't burn too good. Lotta smoke. Better off with aged, dry
wood," he said and turned to go back home.
I took some of the wood into the house and tried to light it up in the stoves. My
neighbor was right, but I don't want to get into that now. You know -- smoke,
coughing, fire trucks, page three of the local paper.
It's a long and embarrassing story.
Every day I carried a handful or two of wood and placed it against the side of
the house, letting it age for next winter. By Super Bowl Sunday I had moved
enough so that I could get my car closer to the house. I invited some of my new
friends to watch the big game and they all complimented me on how smart I was
in buying my next years supply of wood so early. I said it was unfortunate I had
used up this year's so soon. I spent a lot of money on electric bills.
The next year I moved into a new house, a little older and a little wiser. I was
ready for the next winter. No wood, no stoves, just a big old oil burner in the
basement, with a full service warranty.
My father would be proud.
About the Author Brendan Smith was born and raised on Long Island, NY and moved
to New Hampshire in 1985. His first ten years were spent adjusting to being a