The Sandman: More Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Wood Lot Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a little track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

One morning, after winter had begun and snow was on the ground, Uncle John got out the oxen. They put their heads down low, and he put the yoke over and the bows under, and he fastened the tongue of the sled to the yoke. The sled was a good deal like little John's sled, only very much bigger, with wooden runners, and very strong. On the sled was Uncle John's axe, and he put on some ropes besides. Then the old oxen started and walked slowly along the little track, past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field. And Uncle John took down the bars and they went through and across the wheat-field and through the gate at the other side, into the maple-sugar woods. And Uncle John walked along beside the oxen, and little John walked along on the other side, and sometimes he ran and sometimes he got on the sled. Then they went along the little road in the woods until they came to a place where the trees weren't maple-sugar trees, but other kinds that they cut down to burn in the fireplaces.

When they got to that place, the old oxen stopped and stood still in the snow and Uncle John took his axe and looked about, at the trees, to see which one he should cut down. There was some wood already cut, piled up on the ground. It was some that Uncle John and Uncle Solomon had cut the winter before, and had piled up so that it would dry. Every winter, when it was cold and the trees had stopped growing, they cut down enough to last all winter and all summer. And then they piled it up to dry, because wood that isn't dry makes a great smoke and doesn't burn very well.

Pretty soon Uncle John saw a tree that he thought would be a good tree to cut down, to burn. It was a hickory tree, and the wood of the hickory tree, after it is dry, is the best wood to burn. So when Uncle John had found that tree, he looked around, to see which way it ought to fall, so that it would be in a good place for him to work at it, and so that it wouldn't hurt a lot of other trees while it was falling. When he knew just where he wanted the tree to fall, he began on that side, and he chopped at the tree with his axe. And great big chips fell out on the snow, and some of them came flying out so hard, they almost hit little John where he was playing, a little way off. And after Uncle John had been chopping a while, there was a deep place cut in the tree, that made it look as if it had its mouth open. Then Uncle John went around to the other side of the tree and began to chop there.

When Uncle John had been chopping a little while, on the other side of the tree, little John got tired of watching the axe and the chips that flew out, and he was cold. So he went near Uncle John and said he was cold, and Uncle John stopped chopping and listened. Then he said they would have a fire if little John would wait just a minute longer, because the tree was almost ready to fall. So little John watched and Uncle John chopped some more, and then he called out to little John to take care, because the tree was going to fall. And the tree was almost cut through, so that only a little piece was left to hold it up. And little John got out of the way, and just then the tree gave a great shiver when Uncle John hit it with his axe. Then Uncle John stopped chopping and looked up at the tree, and then he got out of the way.


Then the tree began to fall over very slowly.

Then the tree began to fall over very slowly and the top went over sidewise, and it went down, faster and faster, and at last it went very fast, and it struck the ground, with a great crashing noise, and all the little branches that were underneath were smashed.

When the tree was down, Uncle John began to build the fire, because he had promised little John. Uncle John wasn't cold, but little John hadn't been chopping, so he was cold. And Uncle John went about and picked up a great many pieces of the branches that were lying about, and he made them into a pile. Then he got out his tinder-box, to light the fire. People didn't have matches then, so it was a good deal of trouble to light a fire. Uncle John had a little tin box, and in it was a flint, that is a piece of very hard stone, and there was a piece of steel. When he struck the flint and the steel together, it made a spark, and Uncle John tried to make the spark fall on the tinder. That was some stuff that would catch afire very easily, and sometimes it was made of pieces of rags that they had made into a kind of charcoal. Then, when the spark fell in the tinder, it set that afire, and then Uncle John blew on it to make it blaze, and he put that in the pile of sticks and blew on it some more. So the sticks caught afire, and blazed up, and little John was warm. And pretty soon he was so warm that he had to move away from the fire.

Uncle John was chopping the branches off the hickory tree, so that he could cut the tree up into logs the right size to burn. There weren't any very big branches, but there were a good many little ones, so before he had all the branches chopped off, it was almost time to go home. So Uncle John stopped chopping and he made the oxen pull the sled beside the pile of wood that was there already, and he began to pile the wood on the sled, and little John helped. When the wood was all piled on the sled, Uncle John looked at the bonfire, and he saw that it was almost out, and he said, "Gee up." And the oxen started and walked along the little road in the woods to the wheat-field. And they went across the wheat-field, and past the orchard and past the barn to the shed, and there they stopped.

Then Uncle John piled all the wood in the shed, so that it would be easy for him to take it into the kitchen. And he made the oxen back the sled into the shed, and he unhooked the tongue of the sled from the yoke, and he took off the yoke, and the old oxen went into the barn and went to sleep.

And that's all.