In the process of trying to put together a community directory, I had stopped and helped a young family get their wood for winter stacked in their shed. When I talked about how the community helped each other, the wife, Wendy, was surprised. But as Donna, my wife, used the email list I set up to share information about lost pets, cows out on the road, and extra produce, Wendy seemed to enjoy being part of it. But she still seemed timid about being too involved.
Then at five o’clock one Saturday morning in February, I got a call from Wendy. “Mr. Howard, you talked about the community helping each other. Well, I need some help, and I don’t know who else to call.”
Wendy said their wood supply had been running low. Her husband was a trucker and had taken a load to South Dakota. He said he’d be back before the wood ran out, and then he’d get them more.
“But he got caught in a snowstorm in Wyoming,” Wendy said. “He’s not back, and we are out of wood. My family’s really cold, and I don’t know what to do.”
“I’ll be over as soon as I can get some wood loaded in my pickup,” I replied.
I quickly dressed. On the way out the door, I asked Donna to call the community leaders and tell them the situation. Because of the snow, I had to pull loads of wood from my shed out to the road on a sled. It took most of an hour to get a full pickup load.
I parked by their house and started to haul armloads of wood inside. Wendy’s eight-year-old daughter joined me while Wendy started a fire. By the time we finished carrying the wood in, the fire was burning, and the children were gathered around the woodstove.
“You and your children would be welcome to come over to our house,” I said. “It is nice and warm.”
Wendy smiled. “Thanks. But I think we’ll be okay now.”
When I got home, Donna met me at the door. “The men and boys have already organized to cut and chop a load of wood from the community stockpile. Grab some quick breakfast, and then you can join them.”
I ate quickly and hurried to the community woodpile. This was a stack of wood we had piled up from dead trees we had hauled there in the fall from along the canals. The chainsaws were buzzing, and the axes were flying. I joined in chopping. The young boys teased me about being so old, but with my specialized ax that never gets jammed, I was soon outpacing them. The boys started begging to try my ax, and I was relegated to stacking wood on the trailer.
It wasn’t long before we had the big trailer filled. Some men and boys went home. But since Wendy knew me better than the others, the community leaders asked me if I would direct the group that would deliver the load of wood.
“Sure,” I said. “I’d be glad to.”
As we backed the trailer into the driveway, I could see Wendy’s children peeking at us from between the window curtains. When we started stacking the wood in the shed, Wendy came out.
“What’s all this?” she asked
“That little load of wood I brought won’t be sufficient for you,” I said. “So the men and boys in the community got together to get you a load of wood that would get you through the winter.”
As we finished stacking, filling the shed to overflowing, Wendy started to cry. “I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”
I smiled. “When you live here, you are part of us. And to us, it’s all about community and taking care of each other.”
(To be continued)