Olsonic Digressions:
A Fictional Look into the Fictional Mind of the Fictional Charles Olson*

A Series by Benjamin J. Shaw, The California Poet

Episode Two: On Splitting Wood

“I only used one and two-thirds tiers of wood last year…so I only need two pickupfulls. Friday is my first load of wood…as long as my battery isn’t down in my GMC. That’s right, I said it. G…M…C. Three little letters, one serious truck. There’s no camper. It’s custom. It’s got the fender. It’s NOT for sale…I get offers.

“I’ve got a charger in the garage for the battery…in a cabinet I built. Looks like a locker. People say it’s the best locker they’ve ever seen. I agree…I built it. And then I tell them that it’s really a cabinet. The charger is on the second shelf from the top…on the left. It’s up high, about here, because it’s electrical. I store everything that’s electrical this high or higher. I even taped the instructions to the charger…I’m that good. Did you get that?

“The locker is uber-sturdy. Four by fours at each corner…and the doors were made to keep people out…with chainsaws and the like housed within. That’s right, I got two chainsaws in there…but I DO NOT use them for splitting wood. That’s for amateurs like you, Shaw. As I was saying, the cabinet is even bolted to the wall of the garage from the inside…preventing someone from picking the whole thing up and putting it in the back of a pickup (I’m not sure if I should be giving this information out [And I must say that my neighbors are known to actually leave their tools out and about…in the back of their pickups…in their yards. Not me. I’m that good. In this case, it’s un-Placervillian of me to lock up my tools…thus, once again, I’m the weirdo. Different. Promethean. Better.].). The hoodlums who would dress in black and hang out by the coffee shop downtown disappeared awhile ago…you never know when and where they’ll show up again. But they won’t get my cabinet or anything that’s in it…for sure!

“My axe is on the first shelf. Double bitted…the only kind to use when you’re splitting wood. Guaranteed. You got that? Now, the chopping block needs to be the right height, depending on the wood. I only buy sixteen inchers…not the twenty-twos. The place I go to only sells the sixteens, but they say they can special order the twenty-twos if need be. You know, hardly anyone actually uses fireplaces. Sixty percent of the heat is lost up the chimney. Inefficient. Wood stoves take the sixteens (there are some that take the twenty-two), but it’s just easier to handle the smaller cut. You got that?

“Before you begin splitting wood, you must first think about it. 1) It’s a question of the grain…it’s all about how it grew. You know, how it will split. 2) Knots. A certain type of knot will split a certain kind of way. 3) I know what the inside of the grain looks like (I’m that good), so my strike varies depending on the grain. And…4) you should, once you’re as experienced and as skilled as I (which you never truly will be), enter a Zen-like state while splitting wood. Spiritual. But, ultimately, it all depends on the size of it, really.

“Each piece of wood is as unique as a human. We all know each human has their own point by which they crack. Just like wood. Sometimes you have to split a piece according to the complications of its insides…like emotions with humans. Never mind those fools who say to always split wood with a chop to the center or a chop near the edge (perpendicular to the grain). They don’t know what they’re talking about. They fail to take into consideration the insides of each and every piece of wood. All different. Like humans. Don’t ask me about emotions because I’m truly stoic.

“Now, Shaw, NEVER strike long…it’s an embarrassingly amateur way to break a maul handle. You got that?
“Bottom line: this wood business has got to be done by Friday…I need to start re-roofing a quarter section of roof. There’s a leak. Serious enough to need be fixed…and this Saturday and Sunday is the perfect time. Low eighties. Breeze. I laid down the first row last weekend, so the hard part is done. But I gotta get that wood split so it has time to cure. I wasn’t born into a life of leisure like yourself…I’ve got things to do!”

~Thus spoke the Olson~

* DISCLAIMER: This name/person in no way whatsoever should be confused with THE Charles Olson (that weird old guy who hides in the back of the Circulation Department). But it must be stressed that this Charles Olson was in fact genetically engineered by, as Olson tends to call them, flying saucer spacemen…from the very trucker hat (foam in the front, mesh in the back) allegedly taken from the alpha Charles Olson. He is known to wear it while out and about in Placerville (along with a flannel shirt, faded jeans, and work boots, of course). The most recent sighting was at Hangtown Hardware on July 10, 2004.