chainsaws and locust posts
Friday, November 4 2005
I've been wasting more time than I'd like to admit playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, a game I got for free some months ago off the Gnutella network. It's a terrible waste of time, but I use it as a reward for when I've finished something and just need to kick back and do some cold coolin'.
At 4pm Gretchen had a meeting at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, and I tagged along because I wanted to harvest some firewood from a supposed massive pile of old locust fence posts that the sanctuary is otherwise thinking of burying. When we got there we had a conversation with Jim, one of the few vegans there who earns a salary, and he said he thought that all the posts were cedar, which would make them pretty much useless as firewood. But no, CAS Kathy insisted, they are definitely locust. Who to believe? The horse-crazed sanctuary president who graduated from Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia (a woman) or the vegan sanctuary handyman with tons of experience in both handymanship and the animal rights movement (a man)? All I could do was grab the chainsaw and see.
Mind you, I've never operated a chainsaw in my entire life. I pulled the string a few times and nothing happened, not even after I pushed the little bulb I learned about in Lawn Mowing 101. So I had to read the manual, skipping over all the many inevitable pages of safety beseechment to get to the part about how to actually operate the damn thing.
Once I got the saw making that sound familiar from horror movies and life in rural America, the hardest part of the process was just getting the logs into position so I could cut them without pinching. In the end it was easiest to line up a bunch of old posts across another one and cut a piece from each, advance them all, and then cut again. The posts were full of nails and plastic electric fence insulators, but somehow I managed to avoid hitting any metal at all.
The saw quickly proved that the posts were made of locust (Kathy: 1, Jim: 0). The scientific name for this tree is Robinia pseudoacacia and it's a member of the legume family. The wood is yellow and smells of beans, even after thirty years of being part of a fence post. With the exception of expedient posts made of pine, locust was the only wood my father ever used for fence posts back when I was kid; it's the only common hardwood that doesn't immediately rot when buried in the ground. (In the east Red Cedar and Chestnut are its only rivals, but ever since the Chestnut Blight of the 1930s, the latter has only been available as downed trees.)
I loaded as much wood as I could into the Honda Civic given the fact that I also had three passengers: my wife and two canine children. Meanwhile the kids were running around the cow pasture and occasionally rolling in bovine feces while the wife was still having her meeting in the doublewide trailer that serves as Kathy's home and headquarters.
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