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Monday, April 30, 2012

Pass The Peace Pipe

I've known my husband for more than a decade; we've been married almost 8 years.  And it's true what they say -- you are always learning something new about your spouse.

This weekend, I learned that if my husband were Native American, his name would be Sir Chips A Lot and his animal spirit would be a beaver.  Which I think would make him a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe, but I'm no expert.

Alas, he's Puerto Rican.  So I gave him a borinquen name, which is cabron, por que no puedes jugar al golf?  Roughly translated, that means "Hey Asshole, can't you just play golf?"

You know about his chicken mongering.  You know about his skunk trapping.  Someday I'll tell you about the rusted-out, 1960s Jeep truck he bought days before our son was born that sits at the top of our driveway.  Today's focus is on the wood-clearing efforts he has dedicated the past two weekends to.

Editor's Note:  Yes, our home is available for weddings.  No, I don't know when the next vacancy is.  Yes, if you want to use our livestock in your still shots, it's an extra cost.  No, I don't think you'll be able to use the truck for your drive-away.  It doesn't have seats.

This husband of mine has never met a hamper he likes to put laundry in.  The last time he made a bed was in this dream he had about military school.  He thinks wet towels dry best when they're lying on the floor.

This same husband was annoyed by all the sticks lying in the woods surrounding our house.  He thought they looked too messy, just lying there being sticks.  He wanted to clean out those grounds so that they boasted nothing more than plain old dirt.  Like God and tent-pitchers intended.

So last weekend he spent two days clearing out all the sticks.  He laid them in piles along the perimeter of our property.  Picture, if you will, our home as the scene of one of the obstacle course challenges the Hunger Games tributes had to tackle before earning their scores for sponsorship.  It was real homey.  If your home is a dam.

He spent last week like some pioneer man, drinking his coffee standing at the window, staring out at his piles of sticks, deep in thought.  As if he was going to reckon when the locusts were going to strike or if the weevil bugs were going to threaten the crops this year.  Only in his version, he was wondering how he was going to get rid of the woods he'd just removed from the woods.

His answer: a wood chipper.

Now, I know I live in Maine.  I even grew up in Maine.  But all that living has been done in the populated part, not the potato part.  So before this past weekend, I had no idea what a wood chipper even looked like.  It's not like we have BYOL (Bring Your Own Log) parties on Saturday nights where the kids get to decorate safety glasses with puffy paint and glitter.  Yet somehow my better half seemed to know about these contraptions, and he was confident it was just what we needed.  THEY EVEN RENT THEM AT THE HARDWARE STORE RIGHT DOWN THE STREET!  It's as if a wood chipper was our destiny.  We couldn't NOT rent it.  (Screw you, destiny.)

So on Saturday afternoon, my husband borrowed my father's truck and went to pick up our Hungry Hippo.  My children and I were frolicking in the lawn, just waiting for Norman Rockwell to come paint us.  All of a sudden, it got shady and the temperature dropped.  I looked up from the daisy chains we were making and saw a small tank making its way down the street.  I started leading the way to the bomb shelter, thinking surely we were under attack, when I saw a familiar looking arm waving gleefully out of what I slowly discerned to be the driver's side window.  It was my husband. Towing a large, lumbering, yellow thing I now know to be a wood chipper.  Into our driveway.

We spent the next five minutes just staring at each other.  He was grinning.  I was not.  We were each trying to figure out why the other was having the reaction he/she was.  Finally, we both gave up and the conversation returned to our relationship.

We had to figure out where to put this wood chipper.  It was currently behind the truck at the very end of our driveway, and if we agreed on anything that Saturday, it was that we could not send a spray of wood chips into the main public road.  My husband volunteered to back the entire rig out the driveway, and then back it into the driveway.  That way the chipper would be at the top and could then be angled to shoot wood chips along the side of our driveway and kind of back into the woods. 

Problem is, my husband had never driven a trailer before.  So he had a hard time figuring out how to maneuver the world's largest truck attached to a man-made mountain of metal.  For every two feet he backed up, the wood chipper only jack-knifed two feet more in the exact opposite direction we wanted it to.  At one point, the right front tire of the truck was perched precariously on the low stone wall lining one side of our driveway, and the chipper was about to take its first bath in the shallow creek that runs along the other.  It was at that very moment where I turned to my daughter and asked her "How do you think Papi is doing?".  Her answer: "Not very good."

The lesson here is that we should start letting our 3-year-old plan our weekends.

Finally I started shouting directions at my husband, which were of course very helpful and very precise.  They didn't compute, though.  Soon I was just standing expressionless in the middle of our driveway, stone-cold still except for my mouth, which was screaming "LEFT!!!  NO MY LEFT!!!  OKAY, YOUR RIGHT!!!  WATCH THE BIKER!"

At that point, my husband put the car in park and asked me why I was berating him so publicly.

I said I wasn't berating him, I was just giving directions.

He requested that I please do so in a more loving tone.

I responded that he was dangerously close to death-do-us-parting.

So we abandoned ship and decided that we would PUSH the wood chipper to its final resting place.  That effort turned out not to be so bad.  The chipper finally got to where we "wanted" it, and I got to squeeze my spleen out my ear.

With all systems go, my husband spent the next 36 hours chipping wood.  Feeding sticks and logs and tree limbs alike into the mouth of a digestive system that would make a champion hot-dog eater jealous.  It's moments like this that make a guy appreciate hanging on to that hard hat he lucked into during a company outing. 

Everything -- from our house to our cars to our 7-month-old -- soon became covered in a thin layer of saw dust, and our neighbors all brought over casseroles to thank us for the droning hum coming from our house.  It was busy.

At one point on Sunday, my aunt and two cousins stopped by for a visit.  They hadn't gotten the memo about our wood-chipping extravaganza.  They stepped out of the car, saw the activity, and looked at me.  I could tell they were trying to decide if they should greet me with a "hey!  how are you?" or a "we're so sorry for your loss."  They left soon after.

But eventually it ended.  The last bit of earth was cleared, the last stick was munched.  The wood chipper was returned to its rightful owners, and peace was ours again.

The sun was shining.  We had a late lunch.  We de-sand-blasted my husband's exposed body parts.  We bonfired his "work clothes."  We tossed his ear plugs. 

Then he looked at me and queried:

"Now what do we do with all those piles of wood chips?"

It's at times like that you really do wish you were Native American and that someone was passing you a pipe.  Both because they can weaponized and because you can smoke your husband normal.


  1. Daddy Dos does it all!! Maybe he will weld together a coffee table from the leftover wood chips!?

  2. Abby, this post was hilarious. Almost died imagining Aristides as the outdoors man. I thought he didn't even leave the San Juan area when he lived in Puerto Rico! Say hi to him for me.