We’d been hearing for several days about the snowstorm. They made it sound like it was going to be quite a doozy. Of course, if it’s going to be more than a few inches in our neck of the woods, they start calling it a blizzard. It comes complete with graphics and a name. As in, “The Blizzard of 2005” or “Storm of the Century.”
So, everyone was out buying snow shovels, salt, milk and bread, like we were all going to be holed up for weeks. But while everyone else was hunkering down for the storm, Bob had different plans. He wanted to go cut wood.
My friend Bob just moved here with his family from Washington State. Where he’d been living for the past ten years, it’s a little more wild than our little corner of South Jersey. The land is harder, the trucks bigger and the people tougher. Or at least that’s the impression I get. The night before, we’d been standing outside looking up at the night sky, when Bob commented that he didn’t think it was even going to snow.
“Really,” I said. “What makes you think it’s not going to snow?”
“Well,” he said, “Look at that moon.”
I looked up at the moon. It was a clear sky and the moon was full, but other than that, I didn’t see anything unusual. Bob turned and looked at me, pointed his beer at me and said, “And my knee doesn’t hurt.” He smiled and gave me a little wink, took a pull on his beer, and looked back up at the sky.
“Come on,” he said walking back towards the house, “We’re going to go get wood tomorrow.”
The voice that answered the phone was groggy, “Hello?”
It was Matt, Bob’s son. I was always waking him up on weekend mornings because he’d take the phone to bed with him so he could talk to his girlfriend back in Washington.
“Go wake your dad up,” I said.
“Okay,” he said. I could hear him rustling around then heard him say something unintelligible and hand the phone to someone else.
“Yeah,” answered Bob. He answered the way you do when you’ve just been woken up but want to sound like you’ve been awake for hours.
“I thought we were going to cut wood,” I said.
“We are,” Bob said.
“You were supposed to be here at eight,” I said.
“What time is it?” Bob asked.
“Quarter after,” I said.
“I’m ready,” Bob said.
“Did I wake you up?” I asked.
“Ummm.” he said. “Yeah, I’m good. It’s all good. Come on down, I’ll be ready.”
“You’ve got to pick me up,” I reminded him. “We’re not taking the Audi to pick up wood. You’re driving.”
“Right,” he said. “Be right there.”
Fifteen minutes later Bob showed up with a coffee cup in hand and his dog in the truck. He had a camo colored stocking facemask that he was wearing on his head rastafarian style, and a glint in his eye. Even though I had obviously been up longer than he had, he was rearing to go. He added a shot of the Captain into his coffee, a little hair of the dog, and we were ready to go.
I grabbed my backpack into which I had already packed an extra sweatshirt, two bottles of water, a couple of packs of peanut butter crackers, my camera, an extra pair of gloves and Seamus’s leash. I was dressed head to toe in camouflage, not because I needed to blend in, but because it was the warmest, dryest clothes I owned. I looked like a poster child for the NRA. Bob, on the other hand, was wearing old jeans whose back pockets were both ripped out, a sweatshirt, and a insulated vest. Nothing more.
Seamus was ready to go the minute his paws hit the floor. He travels light.
Bob had heard that you could get a permit to cut wood from Bellplain State Forest. This is the kind of person Bob is, or at least the kind of information he has. Truth be told, I think his wife Donna found called and got the information.
So here we were at 8:30am, driving down the road, looking for the Bellplain State Forest Headquarters. Fortunately for us, we found it, since both Bob and I thought the other person knew where it was. It’s on Route 550, West of Dennisville, if you’re wondering.
No great trick to the permit. You go in, tell them you want a permit, pay your fifteen bucks and they tell you where you to go. They have a section of the forest with the boundaries marked in red, and the trees that you can take marked in blue. Easy enough. The thing is, it took us thirty minutes to find the section we were allowed to cut from. Bob kept looking at other trees saying, “Hey, that one looks dead.”
I kept reminding him that we needed to find the area where we were allowed to cut from. Bob reasoned that since we had gone to the trouble of getting the permit in the first place, we should be allowed to cut anything we wanted, since we were already more legit than he’d ever tried to be in the past. But I was firm. Bob kept driving, but continued to look at trees longingly. Finally we found the section we were looking for and began to search for trees marked with blue.
The problem was, while they were nice trees, none of them appeared to be dead and Bob was looking for firewood he could burn now. Again, he began looking at trees that not only weren’t marked, they were on the other side of the road from where we were supposed to cut. He even tried to convince me that one particular tree, that just happened to be sitting right on the road, was dead and would make particularly good firewood. I reminded him once again, that A, it wasn’t marked blue, B, it was on the wrong side of the road, and C, that if we did cut it down, it would fall in the middle of the road and would certainly attract undue notice from anyone else driving down the road.
“Want a beer,” Bob asked, lifting a six-pack from behind the front seat.
“Not yet,” I asked. I hadn’t finished my coffee yet. I hadn’t eaten any breakfast. I wasn’t quite ready for beer. Bob put the beer back down and went to get the chainsaw ready.
We chose a few trees that were marked, and even though they weren’t dead, Bob began cutting and I began hauling. Pretty soon, we had the truck half full and I was getting pretty warm. So when Bob declared that it was time for that beer, I agreed.
“You wanna be the bartender?” he asked. I agreed and went to get two beers.
Only we had a little problem. It seems that Bob had left the beers in the car overnight and seeing as it was hovering in the teens at night, the beers were frozen solid.
“Ah, dude,” said Bob.
“Man, I was all about that beer,” I said. “I didn’t even want one until you offered it.”
Bob took one of the bottles and turned it upside down. An inch of liquid swirled around the top.
“Oh,” said Bob, “it’s not completly frozen.”
“Give me a break,” I told him. “We’ll just have to stop on the way home.”
“Nah, we can just put ’em on the defroster,” aid Bob. “They’ll be good in no time.”
In the end, we stopped at a package store on the way home and picked up some beer. It wasn’t directly on the way home because we took a few different routes to get home. We weren’t exactly lost, I’d been there before, but I wasn’t entirely sure where we were either. We made it eventually.
But here’s the thing. There we were on a beautiful, snowy Saturday, out in an old truck with our dogs, a load of wood in the back, tunes on the stereo and a beer in hand. It just doesn’t get much better than that.