Michael Christopher rang the front door bell on an uneventful afternoon in spring. I went to open the door and there standing was an old man with a grey beard and dirty overall pants. He reminded me of the man from Duck Dynasty. He asked if we needed any firewood, which happened to be on my To-Do list for this spring, so I invited him into the inn.
As he came into the gathering room, he was telling me that he used to be a musician but now he cuts firewood. This caught my attention and I promptly brought out my PSR electric guitar I’ve been playing since two Christmas’ ago and handed it to him. After a quick inspection, he sat down on the couch and immediately started strumming some complex chords with 9th and 13th. In between chords, he played solo just enough for me to judge that this man can really play a guitar. Impressed with his guitar playing, I asked him where he learned to play like that. He said that his father was a musician and he grew up listening to his father play and they also listened to a lot of radio. These days he prefers to listen to extraneous sounds like wind and tree leaves chattering. And he believes in transmigration.
He said he has good hardwood that burns well. He uses a measuring cage so each cord of wood is precisely measured. No funny business. Oak, Red Maple, White Birch. No soft wood, only hardwood that puts out good heat, he said. I was sufficiently interested but before I could commit to it, I needed some more information. Before I had a chance to ask him if I could see the wood that I was buying, he told me that he did not like to sell the wood until I had a chance to look at it. Perfect! Let’s go see the wood.
|He told me to call him in a week or so. We’ll meet at the gas station in Arlington and he will take me to see the wood. I thought about it a bit and wondered if it was a good idea to do any business with a complete stranger that just happened to drop in one afternoon, but then again, he is a former musician and how bad the guy could be if he can play a guitar like that. I was willing to take a chance.A week later, I called Michael Christopher and we agreed to meet at the gas station at 1:00pm. I was still not entirely comfortable meeting with a stranger and being taken somewhere to see the firewood, so I asked Diane to come with me. Just in case.|
|He told us to follow his truck and we drove into a back road to a small field behind someone’s backyard. There were two measuring cages, one full and the other half full. There was no sign of a wood splitter or chain saw. Michael told us that he likes to cut wood by hand. The wood was indeed beautiful, a lot of white birch, some red maple, all cut to approximately 16 inch lengths, nicely fit into a measuring cage that is 4 feet high, 8 feet long and 4 feet deep. I turned to Diane and asked what she thought of it. She said, “Beautiful!”|
On the day of delivery, Michael Christopher came with his 80 year old father whom he calls “Pop.” In his small beat up truck, it took him three trips to deliver a full cord. I helped them unload the firewood and stack it up in a neat woodpile at the far end of the basketball court. In between trips, I invited them into the dining room for a nice cold lemon water and gave them a mini-tour of the property. They liked the inn.
Michael Christopher said that he would deliver the second cord of wood in a week or two. Since he was still cutting some more, it will be a bit greener than the first cord, but that did not bother me as I had enough wood to last for the next winter. He called about a week later to tell me that it was taking a bit longer because he was learning to cut wood by axe and he was getting good at it. He was also thinking about getting a Draft horse to get the logs out of the woods. I did not quite comprehend what impact the axe and Draft horse would have on the promised delivery, but a few weeks later, he came with his friend to deliver the wood. I was busy with the check-ins and did not see him that day. The next day, I went out to check the firewood he just delivered. The uneven chopped ends at approximately 45 degree angle unequivocally confirmed that these logs were completely hand cut by axe.
A couple of weeks later, on another calm uneventful afternoon, a hunter green Jaguar pulled into the drive way. The driver’s seat door opened and Michael Christopher came out of the car, with his grey Duck Dynasty beard and, this time, a clean pair of pants. Who are you, Michael Christopher?
He stopped by one more time that year and told me that he and Pop were going south for the winter. The cold winter in Vermont was really getting to his father and they were thinking of going down to Virginia for the winter. Besides his hands and feet were really bad shape from cutting wood in snow and he needed to give them a break this year. He said he loves Vermont and will definitely be back next summer, but for now, they were heading south.
|The winter of 2013/14 was a particularly bad winter and we had a lot of snow all the way into March. Skiers and snowboarders were loving it, but it was tough for other people. It was really, really cold too and I had my face covered with the neck warmer so not an inch of skin was showing for the entire snowboarding season. There was a mound of snow in our parking lot in April, which Diane called the “glacier”, and we wondered if there would still be a snow pile in the parking lot in May.|
Michael Christopher stopped by again in September of this year. He said that he was playing a guitar again. He picked up a jumbo Martin guitar with huge sound and he will never play an electric again. He told me that he and Pop went down to Florida Keys and saw the street musicians, and he was excited about the idea of playing music for random people and connecting with them through music. He came full circle as playing music on the street was something he did before he started touring with the band, he said. I was so happy to hear this and congratulated him.
I led him to the patio and I asked him to wait for me on the porch while I went back to the house to get the book that I wanted to give him. We sat on the chairs on the porch, facing the mountains, and we talked. He was once again impressed about his father’s absolute pitch when Pop named the notes he played on the previous day after hearing him play the song only once. He talked about possibly picking up a small accordion in Philadelphia for Pop on their way south. He talked about his divine love and how it will center you and you will not be affected by adverse energy out there. I told him that he is a purist. In my world, I said to him, it is more difficult to go straight on a snowboard as anything will affect my ability to remain straight, even my fear, and I will be constantly reacting. Instead I make S turns so that I am focused on each turn and initiating my action, and everything else becomes a faint noise in the background. As we sat there on the porch, on an uneventful sunny afternoon, we became friends.
Come to Ormsby Hill and enjoy uneventful sunny afternoon…
In pursuit of the best firewood…