I was cold Thursday afternoon. Not the kind of it’s fifty below zero without the wind chill and I have to go chop ice so the cows can drink water right before as they turn into beeficles, no, I was just cold as in a fire would be very nice kind of cold. My fire earlier in the week had scared away the demons that cover the sky with dark grey clouds, so I loaded up the firepit again, and started another fire.
The Oak in front is shedding limbs so they all went in there, and there’s always a sizable limb down somewhere that would make a great addition. There’s always a lot of little stuff just lying around, so Thursday, after a great feast and much socialization, I sat down in the woods with a beer and a fire, and three mutts as background music. It was too cold to spend the night out there, and far too wet to worry about the fire escaping, so I left the fire burning and retired. Friday morning the fire was still smoldering so I decided to keep it going. I raked up some of the detritus from the yard, fed the fire again, and got it going. Just for the hell of it, and just to see how long it would take, I rolled a fairly large sixed log into the fire. This was a log from the Oak that fell a few years ago, and not very good firewood at all, but it would burn, and burn it did. I spent most of Friday hiding out from the shoppers. I knew it would be bad and there was no reason for me to risk my life by going out in public. I kept the fire burning all day Friday, and more or less forgot about it Friday night. The air was cool and the ground very wet. The fire would die out. But Saturday morning it was still smoking, so I decided to roll a couple of more of the giant pieces of the old Oak down to the pit and see what would happen. One of them was a very massive piece of wood I would not have tried to move by myself, except I was finishing off the six- pack I had damaged Thursday. This piece of wood has been invaded by fireants, and unless you’ve been bitten by these demons a few million times like all of us Southerners, you have no idea how good it felt to push a log full of them into a fire.
The fireant log burned for a while, as I knew it would. It was the massive stump piece, broken at one end where the tree had snapped at the bottom. It its prime it held up an Oak that reached sixty feet up into the sky. It just fell one day, with no warning, and landed on the house. It wasn’t rotten, the wind wasn’t blowing, and when I got home the tree was there, as if it wanted to come in with the mutts. Since then I’ve been letting it return to the earth slowly, but it’s full of fireants, and I need fuel for the fire. The firepit is downhill from where the log was lying, so rolling it into the fire wasn’t a problem. It had to burn for a few hours before it was reduced enough for me to move it around, and I kept smaller stuff stacked around it in the meanwhile. The firepit has been invaded by fireants, by the way, as all firepits are. I have no idea why they like such sites, but they always do. I kept a flat shovel handy and scooped up burning ash to keep them occupied.
The fireant log finally burned into two pieces, the broken end looked like the transmission from a 1967 Chevy Impala, and the other end kind looked like a giant ham. The ants lived in the transmission end, and as it burned the ants leap out of the broken end in streams. The ham end was so massive I didn’t think it would burn down, and I spent a lot of time Saturday moving things around so this morning it would all be gone.
This morning there were two small pieces left of everything. I sprayed it all down with the hose, and began scooping up the ashes for the mulch pile. There was nearly a wheelbarrow full, and I had to spray it down all again to turn it into a sort of loose mud. I spread it out evenly over the mulch pile, and them hosed it down again. The massive oak that once was is no more, but it will return to the earth, and new life will begin again. I plant to replant some of the saplings in the woods into the yard, and I’ll mixed the mulch pile debris with lime, and the new trees will grow from what is left of the old trees. I will be long gone before any of the trees I plant get as big as those I lost, but maybe one day someone will come along, and repeat this process, and love the Oaks as I do.