The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

On Splitting Oak and Loving

By Shelia Turnage © 1986

Issue: April, 1986

Miss Hannah grunts gently as she heaves the oak log on end. "This here's a sassy one," she says, patting the log's side. "See this? Ain't no ordinary swelling. It's a inside burl, sure as I'm living. No telling what degree of twisting's hid behind that bark."

She taps the log. "Every ring's a year," she says. Carefully, she pinpoints the log's center. "George Washington was born here," she says, "and Mr. Lincoln right here." She moves her finger slightly. "Me, I was born here, and you come along somewheres in here," she says, flicking her finger over an outer ring.

"But what we're looking for is this." She points to a half inch hairline crack near the log's heart. "That line is all we need to know."

Miss Hannah smiles.

"Spliting wood is something like loving," she says. "First thing is make sure you got a good grip, or you're likely to let fly and hurt somebody."

"Second is don't try fighting through no burls or knots, cause things what's been twisted and growed over is always the hardest. And usually the meanest.

"And third is look for that near-hidden line."

She lifts the axe and swings; the log falls neatly in two.

"Ain't nothing to splitting an oak," Miss Hannah says. "Find where it wants to open to you is all. And then aim yourself precisely there."