Talk Dirt to Me

Chopping kindling

I go canoe camping each summer with a group of friends. Every year we play kubb, a Sweedish game that partakes equally from horse shoes, bocce and somewhat more equally from beer. The object of kubb, as with most games is to win. Essentially five logs standing on one end are lined up along two opposite sides of a square. In the center stands a larger log, “the king.” The teams each get six pieces of kindling with which to knock down the opposing team’s logs and finally the king.

Presumably the game comes from a time when everyone had a wood pile in their yard and needed a break from the manly business of splitting logs and kindling. These days it’s played with carefully cut wood blocks that have been lathe-shaped and sanded. I still suck.

I now have a few cords of split wood stacked in my driveway and could probably get a pretty fair kubb field set up. Of course, I did not personally saw or split any of it, so I’m not standing around with sore arms in need of distraction. It was delivered along with a lot of kindling because it was probably “carefully measured” with a bucket loader. We’ve burned all that kindling and starting a fire takes kindling, so I got an axe, maybe I would play some kubb this winter after all.

As a youth I took part in the Boy Scouts. It wasn’t cool back then either, but, you see, I wasn’t very cool. In fact I was pretty much a mega-dork. In the scouts I earned a totin’ chip. I don’t know what that means either, but to earn it I had to demonstrate that I could use an axe and hatchet safely. I didn’t have to chop some volume of wood safely, just one demonstrating and all was good. I never used an axe again.

So I looked at that axe and noted how sharp and heavy it was. “I could sure do some damage to my extremities with this,” I thought to myself. At the same time, I’ll admit, I was embarrassed because chopping wood – or at least splitting kindling seems to be a basic manhood skill. So I put it off. I surely didn’t want anyone to spot me doing a crappy job or looking like a dork with an axe.

One morning the boss asked whether she should split some kindling, “can you show me how to do it.” Uh-oh. So I did what any modern renaissance man would do. I watched some videos on YouTube on how to split kindling. It turns out most people don’t know what the hell they’re doing. This doesn’t stop them from posting videos online for the world to see.

I did finally get some good advice and headed out to make kindling. It was fantastic. I was feeling pretty down before I started but by the end of a pile of kindling I felt cheery and my arms were sore in a good way. This felt like real work. And it made the chickens nervous. Perhaps they have some sort of species memory of what an axe and a chopping block can do. Why don’t you chickens go lay some eggs? They didn’t want to play kubb either.

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