The Sledge, Wedge and the Electric Fence by Gary Benton
“Mornin’ Bubba, y’all ready to go to work?” As Bobby Dale spoke, Bubba knew he hated the man. Actually, he realized he hated anyone who could sound so happy this early in the morning. The sun wasn’t even peaking over the trees yet. Better by far, the rooster was still sleepin’.
“Bobby Dale, are ya drunk?” Bubba asked, suspecting only a drunk would be up at this hour or somebody goin’ fishin’.
“Not a-tall Bubba. I’m right on time, ‘member? It’s four in the mornin’ and time fer work. Since hits yer first day, I let ya sleep in a bit. Now, get dressed, we have trees to cut my man!” Soon as he had spoken, he leaned over and gave an old beagle a gentle pat on the head, and then continued, “I’ll wait fer ya in the truck.”
Bubba cursed and almost screamed, but he did get dressed. He could not believe anyone would get up so early just to work. Shore, he could understand it if the guy was deer huntin’ or fishin’, but to work? It proved to Bubba that all of his wife’s family was insane. Crazy bunch of folks I done married into. They have to be crazy, ’cause who in their right mind would go to work at four in the mornin’? Bubba thought as he put on his army fatigue coat and his Saint Louis Cardinal’s baseball cap. He slowly made his way to Bobby’s truck.
They had gone about a mile before Bubba said, “Turn heater up some Bobby Dale.”
“Won’t do no good.”
“Heater burnt up in 1968 or maybe 1969, I ain’t shore.”
“Ya ain’t serious?”
“Ya feel any heat in heah?”
“Nope, cold as a well diggers left leg.”
“That’s ’cause the heaters burnt up.”
For the next six miles Bubba shivered and cursed under his breath. I got myself in one whale of a mess attemptin’ to hep fambly. It won’t happen again, he thought as he rubbed his chilled hands together to warm them.
Soon, Bobby Dale pulled off onto an old gravel road and continued driving. After two more miles, he turned off on a logging road that was mostly ruts. Now, if his truck had had any suspension at all, it would have broken, but as it was, they just bounced and slid all over the muddy trail. Four of five minutes later, the truck entered a small clearing, Bobby turned off the ignition, and they both exited the truck.
“Ok, Bubba,” Bobby said as he pulled the old chainsaw over the tailgate of the truck, “I will trim some limbs while ya start splittin’ cordwood.”
“Bobby Dale, what time is it?”
“Four forty-five, Bubba. Why? Ya takin’ medicine?”
“I ain’t doin’ a dang thang ’til I get me a cup of hot coffee. And, now that I thank of it, one of them Moon Pies ya promised.” Bubba stood in the false sunrise with his hands on his hips and his chest pushed out.
“Bubba, in the old navy days I could flog or hang you for this mutiny stuff, ya know. But, since yer fambly, I guess hit won’t hut to let ya have a Moon Pie and one cup of coffee.” As he spoke, Bobby Dale threw Bubba a Moon Pie and pulled his old aluminum thermos out from behind the seat of the truck.
“Than.thank.thanks..Bobby Dale. I’m freezin’,” Bubba was able to mutter as he opened the Moon Pie and took a big bite. He took the cup of hot coffee from Bobby with shaking hands.
“Day sure ain’t startin’ out good Bubba. Ya ain’t even been workin’ yet and on yer first break of the day. Dang son, and here I thought ya was a worker.”
“Bobby, it’s too early and I’m cold. I didn’t get up in time to even go potty and ya want me to just jump right in this heah wood cuttin’ stuff like a one legged man in a butt kickin’ contest?” Bubba felt his frustration level going up, as well as his temperature thanks to the coffee.
“Naw, I guess it’s ok. I will jess dock ya for the thirty minute late start we got this mornin’,” Bobby spoke as if he were the CEO of some big corporation instead of a country woodcutter.
“Bobby, ya do whatever makes yer frog hop,” Bubba replied as he took the last gulp of the now warm coffee. He wiped his mouth with the back of his right hand, picked up the sledgehammer and the wedges. He didn’t wait for Bobby Dale to respond as he walked over to the trimmed and cut logs he was to split.
Dropping the tools, he looked around the area. “Dang good spot fer snakes, ifn it was warmer,” He muttered to himself.
He surveyed the fallen logs and saw they were all cut to lengths about two feet long and were un-split. Of course that was his job now. Bubba was jarred out of his daydream, by the sound of Bobby Dale’s chainsaw starting up. Well, son, time to get to work, Bubba thought as he bent over and placed the first wedge in a small crack in the wood.
Now, Bubba, while being a gen’wine countryboy, forgot to tell anyone that he had never split wood with a sledge and wedge in his life. Oh, he knew how it was done, in theory anyway. He knew he only had to place the wedge in a crack and then strike it with the sledgehammer. Then, the force from the impact and width of the wedge would split the wood. Simple, right? However, he forgot a few warnings that he had never received. Bobby Dale, like most country folks, just assumed that Bubba knew how to do certain things, like cutting wood, milk a cow, string a fence line, or any other things farm folks do in a normal day.
Bubba lined up the location of the wedge in his mind. He raised the sledge high above his head and swung downward with all his might . . . only to completely miss the wedge. He did, nonetheless, manage to hit the log, which immediately spit the wedge out. Mumbling, Bubba bent over and re-inserted the wedge. Gotta concentrate on this heah thing. Hit it plum center and she’ll spit for sure, Bubba was thinking as the sledgehammer was raised high once again. Down he came with all his might.
Clang, thumb, whop, came the sounds as the sledge hit the wedge at an angle, which caused the wedge bounced out of the log and to strike Bubba on the left shin. It was five long seconds before he felt the pain from the impact of the wedge. In the mean time, Bubba stood there looking at his torn left trouser leg.
“Dog-gone-it! Dang! Son-of-a-gun! Hurt! Ouch! Dagnabit!” Bubba screamed and suddenly dropped the sledge as he did his imitation of an Irish jig around the fallen logs. His head was back, his eyes bulging, his mouth was open, and saliva was spraying forth like an over raced horse. The pain to his shin was deep and Bubba could not take much pain anyway.
“Son, you alright? Bubba! Dog-gone ya Bubba speak to me and quit dancin’!” Bobby Dale was suddenly screaming right in Bubba’s face.
“Bobby Dale, I hit my leg not my ears. Ya don’t need to scream!”
“Then ya better answer me boy! Ya ok?”
“Hill far, Bobby Dale, I done bounced a wedge offa my shin and ya ask me ifn I’m ok! No, I ain’t ok! I hut son!” Bubba was now bent over and unlacing his boot, as tears ran down his cheeks.
Once the boot was unlaced and off, he moved to a nearby stump and took a seat. He was scared to raise the jeans and look at the injury. Seeing Bubba hesitate, Bobby Dale kneeled next to the man’s leg. He slowly and gently raised the jean leg.
“My goodness, Bubba, ya done did a whale of a nummer on this shin of yern,” Bobby said without any thought of putting Bubba into shock.