Woodpile Counseling

MY father once confided to me - he was then in his 90s - that a woodpile was the mortar that had held his parents' marriage together. Both of his parents, he related, had incendiary temperaments, and when the heat of their disagreements neared the kindling point, my grandfather would hoist the kitchen window, pick up his hat off the rack, stuff it on his head, and stalk out of the house to the woodpile. There he would maul wood blocks in a fine frenzy for perhaps an hour or two. His choler somewhat diluted, he would then go back to the house and throw his hat through the open window. If it sailed back like a boomerang, he would return to the woodpile for another stint, picking out the most knotty, surly chunks, and reducing them to stove wood.

After the lapse of a second decent interval, he would bury the ax in the chopping block, go back to the house, and toss his hat through the window again. If this time the hat stayed inside he would reenter, pick the hat off the floor, and hang it back on the rack.

As a child, 70 years ago, I can recall asking my mother why she had married my father. Because, she replied, his father always had a large woodpile.

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