Today is the first day of the Scintilla Project, which means I’ve got yet another post for you.
The options for today were
1. Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally able to do so.
2. Tell a story set at your first job.
Getting drunk before I was legally able to do so was no big thing for me because alcohol was no big thing in our family. In fact, after I moved out and into my first apartment, it was often family who were buying the beer and the liquor before I turned 21. Like I said, no biggie.
For a story set at my first job, I’m going with stacking wood in my father’s wood-cutting business. When I was a kid, my father believed that God had spoken to him and told him that he would be a sawyer. For the longest time, though, my father only actually cut firewood. And because he didn’t make enough money to actually hire someone to help him, my brother and I helped during the weekends we spent with him.
Because we were so young, there wasn’t a lot that we could actually do to help. We couldn’t use the saws. The hydraulic log splitter was also beyond us. We could, though, stack the split pieces of wood into ricks that my father would later sell.
I remember being totally terrified of the log-splitter. My grandfather usually ran it, and I can remember the terrible bruises on his legs. As a diabetic, he hurt easily and it took forever for him to heal. I can’t remember why I thought that the log-splitter had caused the bruises on his legs because sitting at the back of the splitter, pulling the level to send the blade down the track, removed him from the danger of catching his legs or hands or arms between the metal plate at the end of the machine and the sharp blade of the splitter.
My father was in charge of putting blocks of wood on the splitter and then chucking the pieces on to a pile that my brother and I would then transform into neat, orderly stacks.
I was short and small and really couldn’t carry more than 2 pieces of wood at a time. My brother always beat me because I couldn’t move as quickly as he did and because my ricks had to be exact and perfect. The wood had to be lined up just so. I had to move things around if they didn’t fit right. I didn’t ever beat my brother at making a rick, but mine were always neater and more compact than my brother’s. Not a good thing for my father because there was actually more wood in my ricks, but definitely good for the customers.
When I say that we were young and I was short and small, I mean that we were little kids. Little, little kids. Like 5-6-7 years old little kid. That established a pattern. We spent our weekends with him doing hard, manual labor. We moved from stacking wood to logging to working in the sawmill he eventually managed to purchase. All of those jobs were back-breaking for adults and extremely arduous for kids. We didn’t seem to really mind until we hit young adulthood because then we were beginning to figure out that what my father was doing wasn’t divinely inspired but rather instead evidence of psychosis. We loved him, wanted to spend time with him, and if it meant that we were busting our asses most of the time we were with him, that’s what it meant.
I still can’t stand the smell of sawdust.