Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I Count the Woodpile

Old Wood Wagon from the Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Photographic Collection now on Memories
When I was six years old my father graduated from Harvard Law School and moved back to Saint Johns to live and practice law. We lived in the house my grandfather Leroy Parkinson Tanner had built. The house was very nice but had a few limitations at that time. The main limitation was that the house had no central heating and all the heat came from a fireplace in the front room. During the winter it can get well below zero in Saint Johns and we had to keep the fire going almost all the time.
Sometimes my father would cut wood from the cedar (juniper) trees that surround Saint Johns. Other times he would get a load of wood from the box factory. At that time there were a number of saw mills for making lumber to the south of Saint Johns in the White Mountains. Out by the fairgrounds, in Saint Johns, there was a mill for making boxes, like were used for shipping fruit and other things. When they cut the wood there was always a huge pile of scrap lumber, all pine, which they burned in a big incinerator. There was a conveyor belt that carried the lumber up to the top of the incinerator to be burned.

They would allow anyone to burn that much wood today. Today the wood would be sold to a paper mill for making paper.

We could stand next to the conveyor belt and pull off pieces of wood to fill up a pickup or trailer. My father would borrow a truck and we would go out to the factory and get a huge load of wood. We would then dump the wood in our yard to burn during the winter.

When we first got to Saint Johns we even had a wood stove to cook on. So not only did we need the wood to keep warm but we needed the wood to cook.

One day after I had learned to count. I was sitting outside on the wood pile, which was much taller than I was, and I decided to count the pieces. I got a pencil and began numbering all the pieces of wood. Unfortunately, I don’t now remember exactly how many pieces there were, but I finally, after many hours, got through numbering every single piece.

Now why did I do that? Who knows. But I suppose that it was a curiosity about how high the numbers would actually go before I ran out. Fortunately, I ran out of wood before I ran out of numbers or I might still be counting.

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