I don’t own a smart phone. In all these years, I never did get around to purchasing a cell phone. Now, I’m not a complete Luddite. In my opinion, TIVO is the greatest invention since man created the wheel! I also must admit, but only under extreme interrogation techniques, that I own an I-pod on which Trish has downloaded a library of music. Even so, one of the true joys of my life remains listening to the college station on the radio while splitting stove wood.

That is why on this extraordinarily warm Thanksgiving morning, I’m wearing only a t-shirt while standing in front of the chopping block, swinging my six-pound maul into an oak log. I’m facing the shed that contains tools necessary to maintain the twelve acres around the little Cape Cod house where Trish and I raised our daughter, and where we have lived for over thirty years together. It is where Buck, our first dog is buried. It is also the resting place for Magalloway and Moose, two black Labradors, each of whom accompanied us over hills, through fields and into streams for over fourteen years. It is where Winslow Homer and Finnegan are doing there their best to keep Trish and I young.

Bird feeders hang from hooks in the ceiling of the shed. On the floor plastic bins containing sunflower seed and cracked corn sit side by side. I built a small wooden table under the shed’s single window. Bottles and cans of varying heights and widths line the shelves along either side of the window. They contain a motley assortment of screws, nails, nuts, bolts and cotter pins that I have collected over the years. On the table is a toolbox. Its pine sides are blue and yellow, Cub Scout colors painted when I was a boy. Small tools, some inherited from my father, others from my mother’s father, hang from nails on the back wall. Leaning in one corner are a number of long-handled tools — a rake shovel, broom, a peavey and the maul when it is not in use. Along the adjacent wall two axes hang, one above the other, each suspended by two nails. When not splitting wood, I use the axes to make kindling.

Chainsaws squat like woodchucks on wooden crates, a one-gallon gas can sits inside one of the crates, a plastic jug of oil inside the other. One of the Stihls has a sixteen-inch bar while a twelve-inch bar is attached to the other. There was a time when my larger chainsaw had a twenty-inch bar, but at my age, logs with diameters in excess of sixteen inches are too heavy to move, even with the peavey, and much too much work to split with my lightweight maul.

To my right is the mountain of split wood that next October I’ll store in the lean-to adjacent to the shed where this year’s wood is presently stacked. To my left is a shoulder-high wall of logs waiting for the maul’s blade. The narrow path between the mountain of split wood and wall of logs leads to the shed. Its surface is cushioned by sawdust and wood chips.

Trish purchased the radio more than twenty years ago. I store it in the shed. It is impervious to cold as well as water having been left out in the rain on more than one occasion. Battered and bruised by airborne logs and falling from uncertain perches, clogged with grit and sawdust, it continues to play music programmed by the college disc jockeys specializing in different genres from blues to jazz to folk.

The I-pod wouldn’t last a day outside. Besides, I’m familiar with the music downloaded on this mysterious device. Swinging my maul, watching the mountain of split-wood grow higher, I’m always surprised at the selection of music on the radio. As the clock ticks past noon on this Thanksgiving morning, the first few bars of Arlo Guthrie’s acoustic guitar bring a smile to my face. As Woody’s son begins his tale of the Stockbridge, Massachusetts Thanksgiving-day “massacree” I lay my maul down and sit back on a log.  I remember a young and thin Arlo, a seditious smile on his lips, his hair a confusion of bushy auburn hair. Later this weekend, Trish and I will accompany her parents and our close friends, Frank and Susan, to see Arlo and his family as they perform at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Who would have thunk it way back then?

Could it be that fifty years have gone by since I first heard Woody’s son finger pick his way through the monologue that contains a “red VW microbus”, “Officer Obie,” “twenty-seven 8 x 10 glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one,” the sergeant staring down at the eighteen year old willing to “Kill…Kill…Kill,” while the “kid” sits on “the ‘Group W’ bench” with “mother rapers … and father stabbers… and father rapers?”

For a few moments I’m young again. Cocky and full of what for, my body thin, hair black, long and unruly. I suppose you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.


4 Responses to “THANKSGIVING DAY”

  1. Robyn Hill-Stitson Says:

    I really enjoy your stories. My husband an I heard that song on the radio Thanksgiving morning.

  2. Mark Says:

    I always look forward to your online posts and columns in Skylands. Your story reminded me of driving to Maine on a Thanksgiving Day long ago. Fumbling through the local radio stations in northern Mass, I listen to a high school football game until the signal fades. I lock into a good college station hoping to hear Alice’s Restaurant, but instead the DJ plays “A Thanksgiving Prayer” by William Burroughs! You gotta love college radio.

    I’m glad to be able to listen to WXPN in Sussex now, but I’m wondering how you feel about losing WNTI?

    • forgottentrout Says:

      Mark,That’s something. I miss my DJ’s and some of the offbeat shows like the Sinatra hour. I’ve been listening to NYI for nearly thirty years, as long as I’ve been splitting wood. Remember Johnny somebody, can’t remember his last name. His show was on Sundays. It was called “Jersey to Mersey” and he played all the British invasion music. God I loved that show. I just discovered that WNTI is still on the internet. You can hear it streaming. So I suppose you can take your pick, although when splitting wood I have only my radio. Also, I’m enjoying the WXPN Folk Show on Sunday nights.

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