March 26 • 06:24 AM

A woodpile says a lot about a camp

January 21, 2009
There is something to be said for a thermostat. Turn it up, and there, you're warm.

And this time of year, when temperatures drop below zero, I and some of my friends begin thinking of going to the "cabin." There, we have none of the modern conveniences such as a thermostat. At the "cabin" staying warm requires something more than the twist of a dial, which in part, is why my friends and I go.

At the "cabin" you have to work for your warmth. You must dress warm from the moment you arrive until you leave. It's where we use our pocket knives to cut and eat cheese and venison sausage. It's where we talk of coyote hunting, but seldom do. It's where we play cards and eat this past season's harvest.

It's where the fire outside or inside never stops, day or night.

Gathering wood to burn at the “cabin” is a cherished chore. photo by Randy Jorgensen.

Several years ago the tradition of building an outside fire was started by a friend and it lives on today. A tradition which has carried over to our deer camp, the cool days of turkey hunting in the spring and winter retreats this time of year.

Around the fire, we eat our meals, talk politics, sports, last season's hunt and discuss future hunts.

As you can imagine a lot of wood is burned over the course of a weekend at the "cabin." Enough to thaw the ground around it.

Gathering wood to burn at the "cabin" is a chore. One we all seem to cherish. A chore we do every spring, fall and during our winter retreats. And once the wood is cut and hauled, it has to be split.

There is a science to it- the right wood, split the right way and stacked the right way. After all, your wood pile has to be stacked so it can air-dry nicely.

Woodpiles say something about those who stack them. Truly, most piles aren't "piles" - they are orderly outdoor sculptures.

There is great pride in a man's woodpile you know.

If you're not careful, a woodpile can be addictive. It's more than a casual collection of wood. You could become a "chopoholic," one who just can't stop chopping.

If it's solitude you're seeking, you can find it with an ax and chopping block.

And as I mentioned, there is great pride in it, as there is in a fine winter woodpile.

Up at the "cabin" we say, "He who splits his own wood - warms himself twice."

Pass the venison and deal the cards!

(If you would like to comment on this column, email Randy at:

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