Summer or two ago my woodman dropped off a load of wood that included a dozen chunks cut from the trunks of the trees he had felled. They were formidable pieces of wood, two feet across, eighteen inches deep, still heavy with water from being freshly cut. My tough as nails, early thirties, tree man rolled them from the truck, saying—“It’ll take me a couple of hours to split them.” After two hours of sweating to split one in half he said, “I’ll come back and finish these later.” Which left me with a problem. Actually, thirteen problem chunks of wood, too heavy to lift, and way too big to burn.
Like most problems they just sat at the end of the driveway where I stack the firewood. I’d pass them wondering when my tree man would return to finish the job and solve my problems. After a week or two went by I gave up on him. They weren’t his problems. They were mine. I tried to split a log but the wood was so tough that I couldn’t get the wedge to bite into it, so I left my problems sitting there, mocking me every time I passed them by.
But problems are made to be solved, and gradually a plan began to form in my mind. Of course, there is a vast difference between coming up with a plan and initiating a plan, especially if the plan involves hard work. That’s often why problems remain. But problems are made to be solved, and so, on a coolish summer day I implemented the plan.
It was a simple enough plan-- take my little electric chain saw, not big enough to reach across the log, much less saw through it, and make a six inch cut, about nine inches deep, along the top edge of the log. (I hope I’m not boring you with this, there’s a payoff in a moment.) The cut was wide enough to insert the wedge into, and twenty minutes of pounding the wedge with a sledge hammer, later the log was split in half. Force met mechanics, and the plan prevailed over the problem. Over the rest of the summer my problems were split into the firewood that kept us warm all winter.
I like to split wood. A few days ago, as I’m writing this, a friend from Florida called while I was splitting wood, and volunteered that his personal trainer has him beat on a truck tire with a sixteen pound sledge hammer for strength and cardio, and that he knew I was getting a good workout. The difference is I get a workout and a stack of wood that keeps me warm in the winter—he just gets a workout.
I’ve learned some things about solving problems by splitting wood, not the least of which is that if you don’t know how to do either you may just chop your foot off. I’m sharing what I’ve learned “Behind The Door.” If you want practical problem solving principles this one is for you. And you might learn how to chop wood without chopping your foot off!