It is that time of year when the body lets you know it is time.  The cold months are slowly fading behind us. The body is now telling us to do something. When you bend over to pick up that dropped cracker or cookie, you tend to make a few more noises. Or, when you get up out of that easy chair, it takes two tries. It is indeed time to actually go do something. All winter thus far, you have tailored your activities  by the outside thermometer. The higher the temperatures, of course, the more you do. Then on the other hand, the lower the temperature, the less outside stuff you do. When I  worked in the woods and on the farm in my younger days, this did not work. Basically because the majority of the time, you didn’t have an outside thermometer. You went by the sound of the snow under your feet. Or maybe, how quick your eyelids froze together. We worked into Parmachene one winter when it went to fifty below.  We were ok with it until someone told us it was that cold. We said a few choice words then shut all machinery down. Back into the camps we went for more hot coffee. The pickups were going, so we all went home to check on the family. I have been reminded more than once, I was not home much in those days. But working in the woods in the 80’s was just about the only job around. This was the way of life for the wood cutter in the days of the chainsaws and skidders. There was no dragging feet waiting for the sun to peek over the horizon. Just as soon as you could see the trees,  you had to be working. As most of you folks noticed, the days are short during the winter months. It just does not work well cutting trees while it was dark out. I am not sure how many of you fine folks know what a widow maker is. These are trees that got their name because of what they might do. They just might make ya wife a widow. These widow makers are sneaky. They could be a tree just hanging there waiting for you to cut a certain tree down. There are just are not any do overs when this happens. If it was slightly dark out and you didn’t notice that leaner, you could be in trouble. This is why there are usually other workers in the same general area. It is with luck and the grace of God, no one had to come looking for me. But, I have gone looking for neighboring cutters a couple of times. If a cutter got stuck, you pulled them out. Once a cutter had tipped his machine onto its side and you helped him. You always helped the other cutter because it may be your turn next time. This is the attitude and the nature of the old wood cutters. Everyone looked out for everyone else. If someone ran out of food during the week, you gave them some of yours. Their chainsaw may have broken down and you lent them your spare saw. Now, I live in the woods and I stay away from people. Not because I do not like people, but I like the woods. I get to watch when the Snowbirds show up. I see the deer coming and going. This list goes on and on. I see things on a daily basis that some only hope to see. Now that the thermometers are going to the upper side of thirty, I will venture out more. I am still trying to figure out just what it means to be retired though. I guess as a farmer and a woodcutter from days gone past, I need to keep moving. It is only by continually moving, that I can continually move, although just a bit slower. From where I now sit, I can head out on foot to the top of Spotted Mountain. If anyone wants to find me, it is best you let me know you are looking for me. I do carry my phone, but I answer it only when I feel the need to check it. It is my phone and I bought it for my use. Perhaps, we will see each other out there on the trail somewhere. Just take a right by the big pine tree and head North by North West.

The wandering mountainman

Stephanie Chu-O’Neil

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