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Major Wingspan
Timejacker #2-B
© 2023 James LaFond
SEP/17/23
‘Hustle to it, twerp!’ he drove himself, loading the wheel barrow and bouncing it down the trail to the meadow. Fifty yards down the meadow, around the back of the barn, was the wood shed. Here he would build a stack of some two cords of wood, putting to use his display making skills of old, when he was a Baltimore City stock boy. The trip from under the cedar palm canopy to the wood shed was a soaker.
The small rounds stocked on a previously built stack, he was left with the thick rounds, about 45 wooden wheels too heavy for him to lift. The Major was further into the wood on the next tree. Jamie improved the upper and middle path by rolling out the log rounds, comfortable that some ten thousand years ago a fellow weakling had invented the wheel in this way. The Major’s great big hounds sat in the rain and watched, like ciphers of primal malice who wished he would try and run from this drudgery so that they could have some wolfish fun.
The base of the cedar flared so that the four biggest, heaviest rounds, twice the weight he could lift, could not be rolled. He tipped them flat next to the wheel barrow on the platform he had rolled out with the other rounds, and slammed in a steel splitting wedge with the maw. The gloves were already soaked, his hands half stinging, half numb. He hammered away for a half hour, splitting these into halves and quarters and loading them as another tree was cleaned and sliced into rounds. The water squirted out of the gloves and he hammered, feeling good that his hands were still able.
The Major walked by giving him a nod of approval and saying, “Hit a rock, have to sharpen the blade. A rain coat hangs by the gun safe in the barn—it’s recommended, this shit is not backing away.”
He framed the log round pile by standing the heaviest rounds, rolled down and around the barn chimp-wise, bent and wondering if his oft injured back would hold. These heavy rounds were stood like upright pier posts. Then medium rounds were rolled up his leg and tipped onto these, making an L shaped box, open at the top where he would roll them in. The middle rounds were rolled down and around and into the log box and parked. Then the split rounds were stacked on them. So the first row of four was begun. He would be able to lift the small rounds and half rounds on the hip level.
He was soaked and dripping, the dogs looking on with pity, when the big man walked back around with his saw and admired the pile frame, “Well done, and a highway for me not to get tripped up. Stay dry, Ranger.”
Feeling bucked up some, he went into the barn, found the rain coat and a pair of dry gloves and went back out gladly, eagerly, into the driving rain.
“Wood,” came the yell, as heavy rounds flew into a pile across an unrollable ditch and he hustled into action to start monkey rolling these down out of the wood. His hands were soaked in ten minutes. A half hour in he was drenched in and out, his spirit still rising, in a world of post-life make-believe where he had a leader, that was a friend rather than a manager that was an enemy.
Another tree was freed from a snag and came crashing down, deeper in the wood, where he had blazed and smoothed three log roll paths. His hands were hurting like hell and he did not want to cause an accident with numb hands. He went inside and got The Major’s wood saddle gloves, used to bring up wood to the house, and winced as he knew he’d have to admit to deciding without authorization “to violate” those good gloves.
Soaked to the bone from head to toe, he arrived back in time to get a command, “Cody, come here, stand on this dead fall and press on this snag—she wants to fall south, we want her falling north or we’ll have to chuck the wood out of that brier patch.”
He smiled, feeling better at being this old logger’s little helper, then he had felt managing a supermarket for people who despised him for working with his hands, imposing the world’s crooked economic will on a hundred poor souls who feared him for being The Man’s hand.
The smile faded as he he took his post and thought, ‘And a life, a real life that could have been, has earmarked this day to remind you what a man you might have been.’
So he thought he heard the chainsaw sing and indict him.
“Wedge is out—push, Cody!”
The twenty foot “snag,” being what was left standing of a broken tree, was pushed over. The Major was slicing it up, using that big gloved hand to measure each round, and the tiny road to the woodshed was extended, as Jamie pushed and rolled the rounds a good hundred yards each.
Returning after the saw silenced, the Major was standing there holding a round, “I’ll lift, you carry.” The tall man rolled the round into Jamie’s arms and he held it there against his belly to keep his guts in and walked to the wood pile. By the time he got there he hurried to turn around and go back, so The Major would not have to do all the walking, and he was right there behind him, a round under each arm.
“Christ,” Jamie blurted, “Major Wingspan!”
The Major smiled, “reach comes in handy,” and tossed the logs on top with one hand each. Jamie figured how to be useful, noting that he had surer feet than the big man. He scampered off to the head of the fallen and cut into rounds giant, and brought the most distant rounds back to the last good footing for a big man and piled them on a high spot, a mound that had once been a great trunk. This way The Major would not have to bend and heft two rounds.
The Major silently approved and they got into the work rhythm proper. Jamie would meet the returning giant at the round pile and hand over one round under one apish arm and lift and hand off the other. As the big man walked with a keg-like item under each arm to the wood pile, Jamie scampered back to the dead fall and continued stocking the pile and meeting the man…
At length, only four hours into the soaking day, four trees had been turned into a chest high, 12 foot wide and 18 foot deep store of neatly piled log rounds. Jamie had gathered the tools in the wheel barrow and brought back The Major’s coat that had been hung from a cedar branch spike.
The Major patted him on the back, “Four hours, four good-sized trees. It’s amazing what two strong men can accomplish working together. Thank you, Cody.”
Jamie smiled and shook his head, “Thank you, Sir, for everything.”
The rain stopped as they stood and looked through the cedar stand at the big Doug Fir that yet remained to be processed towards The Captain’s, compound. “That is a bridge too far for today. Another day. I realize you have to help The Captain too, can hear his saw a buzzin.’ Here, a little somethin’ to show my appreciation, Cody.”
The Major handed him a Fred Meyer coupon for $5.06 and Jamie smiled, “Thank you. This is perfect. The Captain ignored his wife all night last night while we got drunk playing cribbage. I’ll use this to get her a box of chocolate, almond bark, probably.”
The Major was already walking back up to the house. The dogs whined, looking at him, wondering if they would walk him back to The Captain’s and he said, “Just to the forest edge, then come back here. It’s just gonna be more log rolling.”
Jamie was surprised that the pump shed that he lived in had been moved back into the woods, that somehow while he and The Major had worked for four hours, that The Captain, his crazy neighbor, had moved the pump shed into the woods.
‘Maybe, he got a new shed and thought this would be a convenient changing location,’ mused Jamie as he entered, to a warm little room with new clothes hung dry from pegs, clothes from The Captain’s military days, that would fit Jamie as he was only a bit shorter than The Captain, and a lot lighter, so could fit the better man’s clothes from his earlier active life. He would work better, as the rain was coming back soon and he was chilling. He did not want to croak on these kind men. They would feel terrible, and at 60 years, he felt near to done. So he changed as he heard The Captain buzzing away with his saw down the way, the sound of whining dogs, above...no behind him drifting serenely away…
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Marc     Sep 18, 2023

As a devoted reader since J.Donovan first mentioned you, I have to say this is one of your best pieces ever.
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