Mark Atwood (fallenpegasus) wrote,
Mark Atwood
fallenpegasus

Mark's Stories. Splitting the Oak.

When my family lived in North Carolina, we supplemented the heating of our house by burning wood. It was from this I learned the basics of chainsaw (stay away from the men running the saws), the basics of hauling wood (it's heavy and fills your arms with splinters when carried), and the basics of hand splitting..

Towards this purpose, we acquired a splitting block, a cut round of very twisted very knotty North Carolina Oak, almost 3 feet in diameter and about 2 feet long. A lot of pieces of wood were split on it, mostly by my father, but a significant amount by me.

When we moved to Utah, the splitting block came with. And we continued to supplement the heat in the house by burning wood. (Later, the stove was converted to coal, and now it burns compressed wood pellets, as my parents no longer have kids at home to split wood or fetch coal).


One evening, in my early to mid teens, I was angry and grumpy about something that I am sure that I thought was Very Important at the time, as teenage boys often are, and I was sent out back to split wood.

By this time the splitting block had been used well and hard. It's working face beaten into a impenetrable rubbery solid pulp of oak fiber. You could hit it with the sharpest hatchet, and blade would just bounce.

I started splitting, setting each log up on the block, then swinging the splitting maul around and over, to catch the top of the log as it fell. Whack. Whack. Whack.

I continued getting angrier and grumpier, about whatever slight had been handed me, and I kept on lifting and splitting. Whack. Whack. Whack.

And then it happened.

I set a log, and started swinging the maul, and the Stars Aligned. I could feel all my muscles and joints line up perfectly. The heavy handle and lump of steel felt weighless. The swing was perfect. No, really, it was perfect.

Like the absolutely perfect strike in at the moment of climax in a martial arts movie.

The maul went thru the log like it wasn't there. It split cleanly, it's two halves flying apart. And my body stayed in perfect motion, and the edge kept decending...

The maul cleanly went right through the impenetrable mush on the top of the block. It slid smoothly into the cross-joined fibers of mess of knots in that old piece of century oak. The handle twisted back and forth in my perfectly placed hands, as the head of the maul danced between the seperating knots.

With a loud boom, the block blew apart, into three pieces.

Finally the maul stopped, it's head buried deep in the dirt.


I stopped, blinking. Amazed. Dumbstruck.


My body had never done anything like that before. And for as long as it's made of mere wet meat, it probably never will again.
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