Sharon Kennedy: Let’s burn some wood

Dad loved burning wood. Even after my parents purchased a mobile home, he often went back to the old house and got a fire going in the woodstove. He said the only decent piece of toast he ever ate was one that was thrown on a hot burner and flipped before it burned to a crisp. When my brother paid to have a four-car garage built next to the Marlette, Dad had a chimney put in and a barrel stove. Although he didn’t use the stove as a toaster, he did enjoy holding court in his new domain. When old friends or adult nephews stopped by during the winter, they didn’t stay long in the kitchen. They joined Dad in the garage for a beer and a few laughs.

One Christmas I came home for a visit and snapped a picture of Dad in his garage. He had ordered a supply of wood and stacked slabs and logs in every empty corner he could find. The innards of an old fridge had been removed and laid on its back. It made a great bin in which Dad piled wood as high as he could. Years later I started helping my brother stack wood. I didn’t have a clue how to do it. He showed me and explained why I couldn’t expect the pieces to stay in place unless they were stacked properly. I paid him no heed until I heard a rumble and got out of the way a moment prior to the collapse of my neatly, but incorrectly, placed logs.

Sharon Kennedy's dad in his garage.
Sharon Kennedy's dad in his garage.

Dad had burned wood all his life. There was no fear of his mountain of wood falling, but he willingly admitted he was no carpenter. He had removed our chrome kitchen table and some chairs from the house. When a wooden chair needed a new back, he merely took the back from a chrome chair and attached it to the wooden one. To this day, the table remains where Dad put it, but I sold the chairs during my two-year garage sale. They brought a pretty price for their originality.

The fridge is still in the garage and filled with the wood I put there. I couldn’t stack it as high as Dad did, but my attempt was adequate. He would be proud. The barrel stove is long gone. I don’t know who took it, but most likely one of the relatives. When Dad passed in 1983, his tools and that stove were fair game. The garage was never locked. Whenever a nephew wanted something, he simply opened the door and took whatever caught his eye.

Sharon Kennedy's dad on his tractor.
Sharon Kennedy's dad on his tractor.

Along with Dad’s truck, the Case tractor was kept in the garage during winter. My siblings drove it during haying and whenever he needed help, but I drove it only once. I don’t remember why. I had probably whined and cried until he relented. It was summer, and he was taking off hay. Before doing any serious driving, he wanted me to get used to steering and braking and whatever else I needed to know.

I was 12 or so and had never driven anything. Dad walked beside me as I went down the field. Everything was going good until I came to the corner and almost tipped over. Dad said not to worry, that I was doing fine. Now whenever I look at that Case, I think of him, his love of wood and his patience with a daughter who never learned how to drive tractor but eventually conquered the art of stacking wood.

— To contact Sharon Kennedy, send her an email at sharonkennedy1947@gmail.com. Kennedy's new book, "View from the SideRoad: A Collection of Upper Peninsula Stories," is available from her or Amazon.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Sharon Kennedy: Let’s burn some wood