Sparks (or not)
Emitted from the fire, their tiny illumination endures for the briefest of moments…then, they are gone

The Ranger

Here’s a funny story from my childhood I  like to tell when family and friends are gathered around the campfire:

My family (Dad, Mom and three brothers)  occasionally loaded up the car and traveled around the state of Oregon during the summer, stopping to camp at various sites along the way. At one such campground in central Oregon, my brothers and I were chopping firewood in preparation for the evening fire.

In those days the Forest Service supplied each campsite with a large pile of log rounds, cut in handy 16″ lengths, then left it to the camper to split the rounds from there. You know –  sort of a wilderness experience for city-dwellers who wanted a taste of outdoor living.

A camp ranger, whose job it was to mingle with the campers, answer questions, and give advice, spied our youthful attempts at woodsmanship and assumed we were in need of a savior.

Or should I say he spied my mom, an attractive woman casually attired in  shorts, sandals and a sleeveless blouse. Dad was calmly kicked back,  hidden under the shade of an oak tree, quietly waiting for the scene to unfold.

The ranger sauntered toward our camp, unbuttoning and rolling up his sleeves as if preparing to do something important – like brain surgery. Or a piano concerto.

Brushing us lads aside with his left hand and winking at Mom with his right eye, he grabbed the axe and with a monstrous swing buried the axehead in a  round which was located in the center of the pile.

With such a violent thrust, we expected the round to explode into eight perfect slices of firewood. But nothing happened.

The ranger tried to withdraw the axe from the wood to deliver another blow but he could not retrieve it. After a couple of embarrassing tugs, he responded with the typical male retort,

“Sometimes you just have to get a bigger hammer…”

I looked at Dad, still hidden in the shadows. A faint smile and a wink seemed to say,

“Now watch this…”

Rangerman returned from his truck carrying a splitting wedge and a 12-pound maul –  as if the raw, heavy steel he was about to employ would impress my mother even further.

He deftly placed the wedge in line with the sunken axe and tapped it into place with the maul. Satisfied that it was properly aligned, he mustered the machismo of six men into one final, gigantic blow.

He lowered the boom.

I’m convinced the ringing of steel upon steel from that one decisive impact is still echoing off the walls of the Powder River Canyon.

The impressive results…?

The wedge was now buried to it’s shoulders, with not a whisker of a crack in the wood. It was obvious to all, that with such an earth-shaking, pile-driving downward force, the wedge had become one with the wood.

The stunned ranger was scratching his head with no more tricks (or bigger hammers) up his sleeve when my dad casually made his presence known. He gave the ranger a sideways glance as he approached the woodpile.

Pulling back some of the rounds from the stubborn piece which had refused to split, he revealed a sight which at once brought perfect clarity…perfect justice…and a few muffled snickers from four country boys:

The great man of the woods had been trying to impress my dad’s wife by splitting the still-green stump of a once-mighty oak…with it’s roots still firmly affixed to the earth.

He just sort of slithered back to his truck and disappeared.

As the dust from his quick departure settled to the ground, my mom drew lovingly into the security of the gentle yet protective (and very capable) arms of her true hero – my dad.

3 Responses to “The Ranger”

  1. I love this story! I’ve heard you tell it before, but I’m so glad you wrote it down too. You are a sneaky little blogger. 😉

    • I’m finding it’s never too late to record the memorable moments of our lives.

      You have a wonderful gift of writing too. Be sure to leave an account of those moments for your children.

  2. I have not heard this story until now. It is a gift. Thank you.

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