Will cold-weather history repeat itself?

He looked forward to cutting, splitting, stacking, and burning wood to keep his family toasty. Oh, what he didn't know!

My father used to tell me that times have a tendency to repeat themselves. The older I get, the more wisdom I see in his statement. This is going to be a very difficult winter for all of us in New England and everywhere the weather turns cold. Oil and natural gas prices are destined, we are told, to hit all-time highs, and many of us are looking for alternative ways of heating our homes. I am seriously considering going back to the wood-burning stove, a method of heating we used several decades ago.

I recall that our first wood delivery was exciting for me and my family. A large flatbed truck slowly backed down our driveway and delivered four cords of tree-length hardwood.

I was actually looking forward to playing the part of Paul Bunyan - cutting, splitting, and stacking my wood in order to keep my family toasty for the winter. After I paid the driver and pulled out my 16-inch electric chain saw and my 10-pound maul, I was ready to begin the task.

After an hour of huffing, puffing, and great effort, I was finally able to drag, roll, and pull one of the logs to where I could reach it with my brand-new electric chain saw.

Trying to remember all of the frontier movies I'd seen in the past, I knew I had to cut off a piece of the log in order to use it as a base to split the wood. I measured a three-foot cut, plugged in my chain saw, and proceeded to attempt to cut through the log.

It didn't even make a notch. Instead, the little saw spun out of control and ended up on the ground, sparking and smoking. A short time later, I found myself at the local hardware store looking for a new gas-powered saw.

Coming back to the log with my new 32-inch chain saw, I again began the task that would help keep my family warm for the winter. After filling my "man's machine" with gas and oil, I held the saw and grabbed the pull cord.

I hoped I had found a means of cutting through the log as though it were a warm stick of butter. The machine exploded into action, with the chain whirring and the engine sounding as though I had just started an Oldsmobile 442 with no muffler attached to it.

A few days - plus many tanks of gas and a half-dozen chains - later, I had finally cut all of the logs to manageable lengths. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the task, but just the beginning.

Now it was time to split pieces of wood so they would fit my stove. I found out that no matter how many times I split a log, the pieces still weighed more then anything I had ever tried to lift before. It took me 10 minutes to place my first slice on the three-foot log I was using as a base.

Then I grabbed the maul that I had leaning near my deck. I discovered something else that day. Calling that tool a 10-pound maul had to be someone's idea of a sick joke. It felt as though it weighed more than my house.

I learned another interesting fact about wood that year. There are many varieties of bugs that reside deep in wood. These insects do not look like normal insects but have a thick black covering even my maul couldn't break through.

I also found out why one should never place his wood pile under his house. These same bugs do not like the cold and find their way into the very home the wood is supposed to heat.

Despite the drawbacks of that first experience, I continued to heat my house with wood. The following winter, though, I purchased six-foot sections of logs instead of tree lengths.

The year after, I purchased three-foot sections, and after that, 18-inch sections that only had to be split. Finally came 18-inch split pieces that just had to be stacked. Then I hired kids to do the stacking.

Several years after I recovered from my initial enthusiasm about heating my home with wood, I eventually discovered my all-time favorite means of staying warm. This is called the thermostat.

With high fuel prices looming, I think about my father saying that times have a tendency to repeat themselves. But when it comes to using wood to heat my home, this is simply not going to happen.

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