Free Winter Heat- almost

Like the old fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, if you head up to high country these days you’ll see lots of “ants” preparing for the winter by cutting firewood – lots of firewood.

It seems every year about this time, as soon as the roads into the high country have opened up and the snow has receded from mountain slopes and valleys, pickup trucks carrying chain saw wielding guys show up in large numbers fulfilling their childhood dream of being a lumberjack.

Here locally we have our own Paul Bunyan of the forest glades who dates back to the early days of logging these mountains and has cut millions of years’ worth of timber.  Big John from South Fork tells about those early days and that he had the very first chain saw in the valley. And most remarkably, at 95 years old still seems to have all his fingers and toes left, too. His life is a real testament that being outdoors keeps you young.

Now, Ol’ Dutch has been tempted many a day to participate in firewood activity. The idea that all that wonderful heat-giving-wood is there for the taking and a $5 permit is more than this old miser can stand.

Any of you that have cut firewood before can attest that there may be a few more costs involved than just the permit from the USFS, though.

Such things as a chain saw which can set a guy back a good $400 but it’s a tool, right? Plus, it’s a good investment for the future heating of the home.

Then there is the box where to store the prized chain saw which will only be a mere $100, plus chains, oil and gas which will set you back another $100 or so. Before you get too discouraged, however, remember all that exercise you will be getting and surely losing weight will also be part of that equation.

There are the other expenses such as a truck and a trailer to haul the newly cut wood home in. The good thing about owning a trailer is you will now have lots of new friends who will need to borrow it. The bad thing is they never seem to return it when they say they will.  And if returned will certainly have a flat tire or a new dent from a fire hydrant. But the stripe of red paint does lend a certain air to the once jet black trailer.

Heating pads, Aspirin and other smallish items are really not to be seriously considered but trips to the chiropractor to straighten out a kink in your back from carrying the firewood can set you back a cool $400. But remember, you are saving money so a few expenses along the way are to be expected.

Following your brother-in-law’s advice to back up closer to the tree, you end up needing a new tire on the truck as a branch punctures the sidewall. Now this isn’t a cheapo no name tire but a good Cooper at about $280. But the tread was down on it some and winter is coming so you can’t count that expense in actuality.

Enthusiastically throwing blocks of wood into the truck, you hit the side and give it a good dent. Not to worry, you have insurance but you have a $500 deductible and goes against your good record which means your rates will go up about $400 a year. Remember, though, saving money is the most important thing here, so don’t fret.

Getting tired you have a minor mishap with the running saw and end up in the E.R. It’s just a small nick but 17 stitches and $4500 later you are good as new and you finally have a stack of wood in the garage.

All of these things could give the average man or woman reason for concern but not the true outdoors man. He is used to some diversity like the time the new wall tent caught fire, the transmission went out in the truck and Uncle Floyd lost his false teeth on the elk hunting trip. But boy howdy did he ever save on meat that winter. That deer they harvested provided 80 pounds of healthy, low-fat, low cholesterol venison. Plus after it was freezer burned, he got a great tax write off for donating it to the local animal shelter.

But as for the firewood, what a joy there is in knowing you did it all yourself and it only cost you $5