I wanted to share a story from the early 1990’s about me and my dad and his infamous saw bench…

My dad was his own man, never one to suffer fools easily, nor easy to bullshit, he was, as he’d say, “the genuine article”.  

A tough minded, no-nonsense type of guy with his own view on the world, and he gave it to you straight whether you liked it or not.

Even as a kid he didn’t mince his words, and so I learned early on that sometimes the greater part of valour is to be tactful rather than hurtful or brutally honest all the time.

One important thing my dad taught me was the power of hard work.

He had an incredibly work ethic which he’d developed over the course of his life, and one that he lived by.

As for me, I was sometimes the collateral damage…

I remember going back to Australia for my brother’s wedding in the early 1990’s, it was a last minute thing and so I was going to surprise them on the big day.  

However, cos I didn’t have a lot of money I had to book the cheapest flight available.

This one was a doozy!

Starting in Toronto it took me through Edmonton, Vancouver, Honolulu (Hawaii), Auckland (New Zealand), and Sydney before finally making it to Melbourne.   Yes, an epic 40+ hour flight!

I finally made it the day of the wedding but was feeling absolutely wrecked by the long flight.  Luckily, I was able to stay awake to make it through the ceremony and a portion of the party afterwards…

When I caught up with my dad after the ceremony, he looked me up and down and said, “you’re looking a bit soft, what’s the matter aren’t you working hard enough?”

Enough said! 

The next morning dad woke me at 6:00 am.

Groggily I dressed and stumbled outside into the early morning light, way too early and bright for my liking especially after my marathon flight.

I remember asking him what we had to do that was so pressing…no response, he just kept walking ahead of me.  

He had borrowed a large truck and as he stepped up into the cabin, he then motioned for me to get in.  

For the next thirty minutes we drove out into the bush (state forest) to where he had purchased a temporary block of virgin bush that needed to be cleared and the low scrub cleaned up.  

This is common practice in rural areas of Australia whereby the government leases an acre block of bush and marks which trees it wants to keep (usually the straightest ones to be used for electrical power poles), but everything else cleared.

Whatever you cleared was yours for the keeping, often producing quite a lot of firewood at almost next to no cost per tonne of wood.

So at 6:30 am we began loading the truck with two-meter lengths of wood from his wood stacks that had been approved by the ranger.  

The truck could carry up to three metric tonnes of wood so it took a bit of heavy lifting to stack the truck from ground height, but we eventually loaded it then safely secure the load before the drive back home.

I thought (foolishly in retrospect) that one load was all he wanted, but by the third load I was beginning to wonder how much bloody wood a man needed.  

By now it was close to noon, and with still nothing to eat nor drink I was starting to feel the effects of dehydration and hunger.  

As we finished stacking the third load alongside the shed, he walked along I could see him calculating how long it would take to cut up

However, before I could head inside and get a drink or something to eat, he began dragging the saw bench out from the shed.

Oi vey!  I knew what was next…

Quickly checking the fuel tank and giving the saw blade a solid inspection to ensure the blades were duly sharp enough before firing it up.

Over the years I’d helped him many a time cut the firewood on the saw bench.

It’s impossible to convey how loud saw bench was as neither of us had ear plugs or headphones to minimize the impact of the noise generated by the blade.

To also help you with context the saw bench blade is large at almost a meter across, and blades razor sharp.

You had to be constantly vigilant in case a piece of wood gripped and it flipped the wood you were holding.  If it did at the wrong time and you weren’t ready for it you’d lose a finger or hand to the blade…

It was a dangerous and noisy work, but a common one we did many times a year.

Over the next five hours we cut the entire stockpile of wood (almost 10 tonnes) into one-foot blocks, irrespective of the width of the wood.  Why one-foot blocks you ask?  

Well, his wood stove and heater could only accommodate that size or smaller.  If the wood were too wide in diameter, then he would have to split it with the axe at some later date…when he needed it.  

Yep, we worked more than ten hours straight that day and I didn’t see him take a break or breather all day long, and I guarantee he worked with greater pace and intensity than I could have ever imagined.

Just one of the many treasured, albeit painful memories of my dad.

Until next week