Steal From A Yankee's Woodpile At Your Own Risk
Wood stacking is a Yankee art, but so is wood stealing
Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick
Every spring, you can hear what sounds like thunder in New Hampshire — the sound of wood being dumped at the end of driveways for the coming heating season. Then comes the stacking.
For most people, stacking wood is a chore, but for Albert Cooper, it’s an art form. Albert has won the Most Beautiful Woodpile contest in Frost Heaves every year for the past decade. He takes more pride in his woodpile than his children — probably for good reason. Albert is a connoisseur of wood, and his woodpile is a masterpiece. He treats his woodpile like a wine cellar, keeping a watchful eye on it, turning the logs every now and then to make sure they’re perfectly cured.
That’s why he was so angry when he went out to the woodpile last week and found that someone had been filching his logs. He called Chief Spaulding right away to report the crime. To Albert, stealing a man’s wood was right up there with stealing his wife, maybe worse.
The chief came right over, but he wasn’t much help. “I don’t know, Albert,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to misjudge the height of a woodpile.”
Albert was more than a little ticked off by this. It was like saying that the Louvre Museum didn’t know how many Picassos it had.
He was even angrier the next morning when he realized that a few more logs had been snitched. “That does it,” he said, and set about to right this despicable wrong.
A little later on, Albert’s wife Dolores came out of the house and found him sawing the end off a log and hollowing it out.
“What on earth are you doing?” she asked.
“Never you mind,” he said, and Dolores knew better than to argue with him.
When Albert was done fiddling with the log, he put it back on the pile. A few nights later, he and Dolores were lying in bed. Just as they were falling asleep, a boom of thunder shook the whole town.
The next morning, Albert went to get his coffee at the market, like he does every day. As soon as he walked in, Earl Hadley said, “Did you hear the excitement last night?”
“What excitement?” Albert asked, and Earl explained that there had been a chimney fire out to Lloyd Davison’s house.
“Chimney fire?” Walter Dunton said. “You ever see a chimney fire blow a wood stove to bits?”
“Maybe it was ball lightning,” Herb Cullin said.
“Right,” Walter said. “Ball lightning.”
Then Cecil Buxton said to Albert, “Did you get that tree stump out?” Albert asked him what stump, and Cecil said, “What stump? The one you borrowed the gunpowder for. You told me you needed to blow up a stump.”
“Oh, that stump,” Albert said. “Ayuh, I took care of that, all right.”
Fred Marple is the nom de plume of Ken Sheldon, the creator of the mythical town of Frost Heaves, NH — frostheaves.com.