Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wood Cutting in the Sonoran Desert

I met my wife Kathy when we were going to High school, both of us just 13. I was her first kiss, first date, first boyfriend and yes, I took her to the Senior Prom. We married in our early 20’s and moved to Cave Creek a few years later. Our first house was an old ramshackle combination of poorly connected rooms with a tin roof. We had no air conditioner or heat, so it was fans in the summer and a fireplace in the winter.

When you heat with wood it’s a whole different thing from having a fire for ambience. The first time you buy a cord of wood for $280 out of a $360 paycheck you decide that cutting your own might be a better choice.

Photo Daigneault 2002, Our yard in spring

Living in the desert and driving on dirt roads you soon learn to look for firewood opportunities. There is an old grove of tamarisk trees right in the middle of town and there was many a night that I came home to find we were out of wood and the “house” was getting cold. So I dove over to the grove and tied a rope to a big branch of tamarisk that was often still attached to the tree. I would attach the other end to the back of my motorcycle and roll forward until the rope was tight and then give the gas!

Photo Daigneault 2002, Saguaro our yard
Usually after a few yanks the branch would come free with a big crack and I would drive the two blocks to our house. This route included about 400 feet of driving down the middle of cave creek road dragging a 15-foot long branch that if I was lucky would burn all night.

Things were different in those days. If the local cop saw you he would turn on his red flashing lights and follow you until you turned the corner on to your street and then lean out the window, laugh and yell, “Get a truck”. Wave and then go back to looking for speeders.

Photo Daigneault 2002, cactus front yard

I have a party to cook for in a few weeks and I’m out of mesquite, so I went out wood gathering. I took my son Joey and we drove around town on the back roads. After about ten minutes we found a big pile of mesquite branches that had been cut and discarded last season along with cactus and various other yard trimmings. This time of year we only need to keep an eye out for scorpions, black widow spiders, and the occasional tarantula, luckily the rattlesnakes are hibernating. There are also the cactus and mesquite thorns to contend with. We got out and used an electric branch saw with a full battery and cut off the smaller branches leaving only logs about six to seven feet long. The truck was full in about half an hour and we took it home. Joey will come over this weekend and cut it into foot long logs, and then split the big pieces so I can use the wood in my big trailer barbecue.

Photo Daigneault 2002 Tuna blossom our house

Joey had to go back to work and so after we got to the house he gave me a hug and drove back to Firecreek to finish with his coffee roasting.

I was a little worn out so I went inside and set in my big chair. I had a few mesquite thorns in my hands to deal with. As I was working on my hands, I remembered Joey at four years old wanting to use the chain saw or to help load the wood. Back then I had to keep an eye on him. Now he’s the one keeping an eye on me. I hope that one day I get a grandchild to take woodcutting. It may not seem like much but to me the though of driving an old truck on a dirt road with a dog and my grandkid is about as good as this life gets.

Cactus Flower photo Daigneault 2002

I feel sorry for the people that live here, but they live in town or in subdivisions with “Desert Landscaping”. Joey and I were off the main road, only a few blocks but it was amazing. The ground was damp from the rain and there were birds and rabbits. It smelled like creosote and earth. It’s a gift to live here and interact with the desert. And it’s a gift to have this life with my wife and kids.

If you live here in Arizona and have a little time this weekend, grab your sweetie or kids and take a drive. Just go for a little hike in our beautiful Sonoran desert It’s there waiting for you.

Photo, Mike Assad feb 05 Snow in front yard

1 comment:

  1. As usual it is great to read Coyote Joe. To Norman at Midnight is a great poem. Reading Joe makes me homesick for AZ in a big way.
    David grossman