Here's the Scoop: September 26, 2012

Free wood is best. Usually
Each year around this time, I am subject to a ban on “firewood chatter.” Under extreme circumstances, I am allowed to break the prohibition. This qualifies.

No matter how much firewood I have on hand, the onset of cooler weather sends me into a minor panic. As a result, I engage in an annual race with the squirrels as they, too, race around the woods preparing for whatever winter has in store. The squirrels’ task somehow seems easier — no saws, trucks or danger of severed body parts.

Despite my commitment to rounding up wood on our property, I have a longstanding tradition of being on the lookout for “free” firewood. By “free,” I’m referring to wood in random locations that has been knocked down by any variety of circumstances and sits on the ground, looking lonely, rotting. Sorry, I’m tearing up.

Wood needs a home
Anyhow, I absolutely can’t stand to see wood in this condition. I always feel it’s my duty to grab such pieces and utilize them as a heat source, thus adding a final bit of dignity to the lives of these trees. Or, maybe I just want some free wood that I don’t have to cut.
For whatever reason, I look for “easy pickings” wood like most drivers try to spy radar-equipped police cars.

I guess my reputation in this department has spread, because people now come to me with news about free wood “hot spots.” I received one such tip following last week’s rain/wind storm.
“There’s a big pile of wood from a tree that was knocked over in the storm. Emergency personnel cut it into nice chunks,” Deep Bark informed me.

The following day, I took a drive and the wood was exactly as described. And there was a lot of it. It was also right next to the road — easy for gathering — by anyone. The good news was that the wood was partially hidden by leaves and a guardrail. There was also a pretty steep bank that made wood harvesting much trickier.

First come...
I didn’t have time to pursue the wood that day, but the following day I returned to scope out the scene. Still there. Untouched. This closer inspection revealed an additional problem in my quest — these chunks were gonna put a strain on our small SUV.

I decided to enlist some assistance. I offered a friend with a truck a fair wage if he’d haul a load of the free wood to our house. No problem. Within the hour we were hungrily wrestling with the huge pieces of freshly fallen ash. Despite the size of the chunks, the fact that we were dealing with ash would make for relatively easy splitting. This was great!
Until the wood’s owner arrived.

When I heard someone pull up behind and ask what we were doing his wood, I thought it was a joke. Then I turned around and saw that the speaker was indeed a friend who lived in the vicinity. The wood, it turns out, was on his property.

Let’s make a deal
My friend explained that he was finally getting around to loading up the wood for his own burning purposes and had brought a helper along to give a hand.

I apologized for the misunderstanding and explained that I thought the wood was “fair game,” since it was lying helplessly alongside the road.

I offered to load the wood into the rightful owner’s truck. Seeing how I was already filthy and perspiration-drenched, my friend took pity and declined.

As luck would have it, I was in the midst of doing some sign work for my friend’s business and he suggested that I knock a few bucks off the tab in exchange for the wood. I nodded my sweaty head in agreement with the deal.

We then all enjoyed a good laugh over the situation. I announced, “This is definitely the most expensive ‘free’ wood I’ve ever picked up...kind of a pain in the ash, too.”
— By Brian Sweeney