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And Furthermore: When nature hands you lemons, light a fire

Jon Rombach is a columnist for the Chieftain and warms his log cabin in Wallowa County with firewood cut in Wallowa County. Any firewood will do, so long as its larch.

Published on October 2, 2018 2:58PM


I just got stumped. Couple weeks back I found two premium tamarack firewood trees in the woods. Right off the road but somewhat hidden. A rare and precious bonanza.

I could already feel the warmth from those larch rounds, cheerily cracking away in my woodstove. O, they were so toasty. So very toasty.

Yeah, so I go back out to tip these prime specimens over and cart them home but find instead two very recently-created stumps.

You ever read Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree?” Remember that drawing at the end where the old guy is sitting on the stump all sad and morose? I could describe my state of mind upon encountering these stumps, but it’ll be a real time-saver for both of us if you go pull your child’s copy of Silverstein from the bookshelf and flip to that page. Ol’ Shel sure could draw.

The worst part –– aside from tamarack of this caliber being exceedingly rare, and complications associated with dehydration from shedding bitter tears –– the worst part is that I am 98-percent sure I know exactly where those larch are now.

Oh, yes. While exiting this patch of forest after locating the prized larch trees, I passed an acquaintance going into the same neck of the woods, and this particular gentleman I know to be an active and avid wood-gathering enthusiast.

I strained a face muscle trying to smile and wave as we passed. Then I shivered ever so slightly, as a shadow of doubt, followed by dread, slowly crept across my happiness.

Public land. Early bird gets the beautiful, perfectly-dried cord and a half of standing fuel. I know how it works. First come, first blah-blah-blah.

But, oh, how it rankles. I mean, I had the lean on both trees figured out and just how to fall them. Mentally, I already had them arranged in the woodshed back home.

They’d get pride of place. I’d burn my old copies of Shel Silverstein first and then break up the furniture and run that through the stove, because these rounds would be just too picturesque to deface with a splitting maul.

This was like finding two Charlie Russell oil paintings propped against two trees out in the woods but not having room to bring them home because your truck was full with lodgepole pine at the time. Then when you go back ... I just ... I can’t even type the rest.

I only hope this guy who cut these trees will understand. I promise I’ll bring some Windex and paper towels over next spring to clean the fingerprints and nose smudges off your window –– because there will be nights when the snow is gently falling and I’ll be compelled to trudge the short distance over to your place and bitterly watch my firewood merrily lighting your hearth.

That’s not stalking, is it? Trespassing, sure. You got me there. But I’ll try not to trample the azaleas. Can I put a lawn chair outside the window? Too much? Yeah, that’s probably too much.

Friends, when life deals you a minor setback and sort of crushes your soul a little bit, the only thing to do is make lemonade, or whatever that saying is. I’m not thinking clearly right now.

Distracted by this stupid, perfectly-dry lodgepole making noise in my stove, crackling away all merrily and whatnot. Grrrr. Keep it down, lodgepole.

I did top off my wood supply for the winter, so I’ve got that going for me, even if it is mainly lodgepole. Eventually, all firewood merges in the woodstove, and BTUs run through it. But, still. I am haunted by tamarack. Those two trees in particular.

Jon Rombach is a columnist for the Chieftain and warms his log cabin in Wallowa County with firewood cut in Wallowa County. Any firewood will do, so long as its larch.



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