The question of how much wood a woodchuck actually would chuck never occurred to me seriously before, since a woodchuck is merely a groundhog, after all, and is no more capable of chucking wood than hogging ground, or grinding hogs, as the case may be, being a herbivore to boot, never mind that the question was always hypothetical at best -- if a woodchuck could chuck wood -- thus making not only the problem moot, but the solution, too, as a woodchuck, even if he were not a groundhog, and did, for some reason, chuck wood, would not necessarily, de rigueur , chuck all the wood he could chuck, animals being notoriously stingy with their feats
But he'd do so now. These days in Vermont, with the false-autumn air abuzz with nothing but chain saws, the entire state sounding like an electric wolf gnawing a boulevard to your door, why, a woodchuck would be a dumb bunny, a goat, not to chuck as much wood as he could. If he had done his chucking last year, he'd have dry wood by now, which chucks for $100 a cord. Even the green and soft stuff that will line your chimney with creosote and set it ablaze, along with your house, will bring a diligent woodchuck $85 for a pile of four-by-four-by-eight, which for a woodchuck is like falling off a log.
What I don't know about wood you can shake a stick at; but I've tripled my knowledge lately, here, where there is much talk of wood, of little else but wood; of maple, white birch, yellow birch, split, delivered, you-pick-up. The Boston Globe ran a whole section last week on how to tell one chuck of wood from another. Not to mention Blair & Ketchum's Country Journal with its "Join the Revolution" ads for a Hearthmate Fireplace stove, and a Woodstock Soapstone stove, and a Hearthstone, and a Southport. Not to mention the All-Nighter. Not to mention the patented new Chopper 1 wedge-lever ax, or the interchangeable gas/electric non-hydraulic rack-and-pinion splitter.
Not to mention me. I, too, have become a splitter, non-hydraulic; it takes no skill. The trick is for the mind, which is not used in the splitting, to find something in the wood on which to chew -- like the question of the woodchuck, or the problem of going against the grain, itself an old saw, or of barking up the wrong tree, which is not the same as being up a tree, or even as being out of one's tree, which is possible under the circumstances.
Then, too, there is the tree itself to consider, which has never seemed so remarkable to me as it does in its fallen state, laid open, anatomized at cross section for the gape of every bumpkin like myself. Some plant, a tree. Somewhere there was xylem, somewhere cambrium, and somewhere else, phlosem; I remember the process precisely. Sap was drawn from the roots, somewhere. Somehow cells got bigger and harder. In some way the rings developed. And after some time there was a tree, bigger than a house, bigger than the house behind me, which it built 200 years ago, and which it will warm this winter, along with the wonderful family therein. Amen. There's that to consider.
Along with Noah, who like Vermonters now, must have been panicky for wood. And the Dutch. And the folks who make Louisville sluggers. And the ventriloquists, and the Greeks with their gift horse. Can't forget the Greeks. Can't forget the Romans, either; the Roman soldiers who, 2,000 years ago, or nearly, also sought a tree, a good, substantial one that could bear the weight of a man, whose wood became a different kind of fuel. In short, I can't forget that while the great god oil slept undrilled for centuries under desert and the North Sea, it was wood that made the towns, ships, spears, dolls and woodwinds; and even now, when there is no pretending that it could fuel the earth again, a tree is still some plant.
The beavers, of course, have been no help. While everyone else up here has been chopping and stacking for the good of the country, the beavers, as you'd expect, have gone about their tedious constructions, to the extent of tossing the Fish and Game Department of our neighbor, New Hampshire, into a tizzy. The department is going broke dynamiting beaver dams, of which there is a plague. Unlike a woodchuck, a beaver really does chuck wood. But he chucks it in the wrong direction, and he chucks it all the time, as if what the world needs now is a superabundance of beaver dams, instead of beaver hats, when the frost is on the bumpkin.
What the world needs now, friends, is seasoned ash, a Chopper 1, a non-hydraulic, rack-and-pinion splitter, balmy Januaries, several All-Nighters, responsible beavers, more woodchucks, fewer loggerheads, less logorrhea, no logjams, and wood across the board.