Last weekend we spent an afternoon splitting wood and hanging around the fire at the 13th Anniversary Party for the Haseks.

It all started about 20 years ago, when an invasive beetle stowed away in a shipment of goods from China to Michigan. 

No, not the Hasek's love story--that had something to do with Alaska and yoga, I think. This is the story of why the couple had 12 trees taken down, and why they had so much wood in their yard that they had to have all their friends come over and chop it up.

Anyway, that sneaky little Emerald Ash Borer chewed her way out of the pallet and was delighted to discover that her favorite food was abundant and her natural enemies were scarce, so she got to work surviving and reproducing like a champ.  Two decades later and she'd made her way north into Ontario and Quebec east and west through the US and and south, into our neck of the woods.  

Our town has a lot of Ash trees in it.  The Haseks had 11 on their property alone, and when the blight was confirmed in our region, they had to decide between losing all that shade or pumping their trees with beetle poison every couple of years (which ain't cheap either), and hoping the trees stayed Borer-free.  They opted for the chop.  Time passed, the piles lingered, and an anniversary approached, so the happy couple called in the A squad to chop and celebrate.  


Wear boots and flannel, they said.  Bring axes and wheelbarrows, they said. Child labor welcome, they said.  We will feed you chili, they said. So we came.  Bearded and beflanneled, wielding axes and pushing barrows, we came.  

It was a balmy 37 degrees that January day.  The kids chased the chickens and took turns holding the rabbit and ran around like a pack of cousins all day.  Everybody over 13 tried their hand splitting wood.   The Superintendent chopped for 3 hours straight.  A Rocket Scientist with a bad back hacked away like Paul Bunyon. Four year old Henry filled and emptied his very own wheelbarrow about 40 times.  The carpenter's wife split and stacked like she was getting paid, stopping only to make way for a displaced vole-a refugee of the woodpile.

There were no injuries and almost no hurt feelings (it's hard to be a kid).    We had cake and toasted the happy couple and their sunny and open yard. 

As dusk fell, the children transformed from delightful woodsprites into small hungry demons and were removed.  The fire was engineered for heat and light, and we stayed close, sipping bourbons and beer, trading stories, smelling like woodsmoke and fresh air and hard work, unaware that the Ash Borer had moved on to a new host:  The White Fringe Tree.   [dun dun duuuuuuuunnn.......]

AuthorMatthew Collins