The Way To Become A Complete Man

Canadian Mountainmen, Pioneers of the Old West and Monty Python. You don't get any more manly than a lumberjack.
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Canadian Mountainmen, Pioneers of the Old West and Monty Python. You don't get any more manly than a lumberjack.

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A long long time ago, on a misty TV set, as a child I saw a Chinese man cut a wooden block clean in two. With his bare hands.

‘Grasshopper!’ I seem to remember someone saying, a mystic Chinese warrior melting the physical world with his own acts of concentration.

This stuck in my deepest memory…

Cut to many decades later, I was lucky enough to spend some time in France. In the evenings I cycled and jogged the countryside. There were piles of logs everywhere, massive piles of logs, ridiculous piles of wood drying out, stacked high and long. Under special roofs, by houses, under barns, in the middle of fields, by the roadside. Someone had cut these logs from huge long lost trees. It made me strangely envious. Deep down I realised I had LOG ENVY.

My life was not whole. I did not have a pile of logs like this.

I have had this feeling before, in Switzerland, where log piles have taken on another meaning entirely in their linear perfection. In Switzerland piles of logs are neat at the front as well as the back. My friend Wray has a big neat pile of logs next to his neat big house. This pile of timber has a roof, tiles, and even a drain feeding a fresh water tank. God, it’s so highly detailed that pile of logs. I am jealous as hell.

Piles of logs. They are not just piles of logs in fact. This is ‘who has the biggest knob’. Who has the most resources? Who’s loaded enough to have wood lying around doing nothing?

So I had three massive trees chopped down. They were in the way. They were 90 foot high. They could fall down. They looked diseased. They could ruin foundations. They were making my lounge dark anyway. They could heat my home. And I fancied going Scandinavian with a funky designer log burner.

I got this huge long saw with a diamond tipped saw blade. I ordered a ‘grenade’ on the internet to blow up big chunks of timber, and a heavy log splitter – a lethal wedge of an axe that could easily slice someone’s head in two like butter.

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Today I had got down to it. Put on a red and black checked shirt, rough shorts, big burly boots. And some factor 50 suncream. Time to get sweaty!

Giving myself a gentle start for the first half hour I sawed thinner branches into perfect identical mini logs anyone from Grindelwald would be rightly proud.

You can’t rush sawing.

I did this by hand, peaceful and quiet, no noisy chainsaw ripping my ears to shreds. Just the whirr whirr purr of blade cutting through camembert. That blade is amazing. And fucking sharp! Ouch!

After a while my right arm was weary. So I got out ‘THE GRENADE’!

This piece of steel looks like a grenade with a sharpened point at one end. You hammer it into tree trunks with the back of an axe. Slamming it deep. Then you raise the axe over your head and whack it as hard you can following clean through like Grasshopper. At first I was clumsy, missing it or knocking the grenade out. But then I got it perfect – and a huge chunk of timber just exploded into smaller pieces with hardly any effort. Wow! I have super powers.

When you are weak and feeble like me, slamming axes over your head is extremely tiring after two attempts. Sweat was pouring down my brow. I dug deep and exploded a few more logs. Such a thrill. I was startled how easy those huge chunks of wood split apart. Then I felt really worn out. Time to make the log pile. Time to stack it.

Would it be all perfect and Swiss-like my dream pile of logs? Stacking wood perfectly is not as easy as you may imagine. But it is essential that it looks fantastic. It’s just not just a pile of winter fuel – this has to have real aesthetic if it is going to become a real log pile. It has to look amazing. But I don’t have the patience and am not OCD enough to go Swiss – so my pile of wood is lob sided, not so perfect. Am happy with it though. I got a lead mallet out to bash the fronts of the logs flat at the front. So there is some OCD in me! Jamming the wood in tight so it won’t fall out.

Standing back after three hours graft – there is a real sense of satisfaction looking at my own ‘big-dick’ pile of logs.

At last I am complete – I am a lumberjack. I am a man.