He was skittish
as a feral cat.
A business card cut
from a cereal box, his number in pencil.
After leaving a message
that the woodpile was diminished,
I would return home
to find our shed filled
with the most beautiful wood.
Red oak and hickory
scenting the air with an earthy aroma
exquisitely cut and perfectly stacked
4 by 4 by 8
cord wood of the highest caliber.
A strange winter relationship
our paths only crossing three or four times each year.
We began leaving small gifts of cookies
and heavy work gloves
until he would deliver and stack
when I was at home,
leaving with a quick thank you
and down cast eyes.
On the next delivery, a short conversation.
Slowly, a glimpse of a life offered,
veteran of an old unkind war,
living off of the woodlots,
grown children in Texas,
and women that would stay for a while.
He brought us the most beautiful firewood
until he didn’t.
We have no way of knowing
the path he took.
We have chosen to think he is living
with his family down south
but our memories will always remain
of the quiet wood man
and the most beautiful firewood
…….We all have them – those odd relationships with the mail person or delivery guy or the lady behind the counter. This is one of those relationships. We somehow found Jim selling firewood our first winter in the Arkansas Ozarks. And it was seriously the most beautifully cut and stacked wood you have ever seen. His skill was amazing. For the first few trips he made to our house, he would come while we were at work, I would leave payment in an envelope for him, and we would have firewood that evening when we got home. Slowly, it developed into a friendly relationship and he would deliver when we were at home. He brought us this wonderful wood for the several years we were in the rent house and then for a number of years when we moved to the shack. Then, one fall, nothing. the phone number was no longer in service and no one had seen any sign of him. Now, this is the Ozarks, so any number of scenarios could have played out – drugs, prison, even death. And we will never know for sure. But this is our story and we are sticking to it. Jim reconciled with his daughter and is living with his family somewhere in Texas. And on the first cold night of the year, I can still conjure up the scent of the freshly cut hickory and red oak and picture that quiet wood man.