A Load of Firewood, From the Archives

D. E. Larsen, DVM

John slid through the front door and leaned on the front counter. He waited for the reception room to clear and then leaned over to talk with Sandy.

“I have been out of work for 3 months now,” John said. “I hate leaving my bill unpaid, but with the new baby, we just haven’t had any spare money.”

“I know things have been tough for a lot of people,” Sandy said. “If you could pay anything, we could keep your account current and not turn it over to the collection people.”

“Do you guys have any need for firewood?” John asked. “I  just got access to a downed maple tree that I am going to be cutting up. It’ll make good firewood.”

“That would be great, John,” Sandy said. “We can always use some firewood, and Doctor never has the time to get it himself.”

“I could cut you a pickup load, split and stack it at your house, all for a hundred dollars on my bill,” John said, hoping Sandy would not think the price was too high.

“If it is a large load, I will give you full credit on your bill,” Sandy said. “That will be a hundred and thirty dollars.”

“Great, I can do it tomorrow,” John said. “I know where you live, just tell me where to stack it, and I will get it done.”

“We are in the process of building a woodshed up by the pump house,” Sandy said. “But for now, you can stack it under the eves on the backside of the house.”


It was about two in the afternoon when John popped through the front door. His heavy wool shirt was wet from the light rain and covered with sawdust and moss.

“I have your wood all split and stacked under the eves of your house,” John said. “That little black dog of yours was none too happy about it either.”

“That’s good John, I can credit your account and give you a zero balance,” Sandy said.

“Well, there is just one little problem that I need to talk to you about,” John said. “I broke a tooth when I was cutting the wood.” John lifted his lip with a dirty finger so Sandy could see the broken tooth.

“Ouch, that doesn’t look good,” Sandy said.

“My problem is the dentist won’t look at me without a payment,” John said. “I was hoping I could sell you the wood instead of putting it on my account. I could probably get by giving him a hundred dollars.”

“I guess we can carry your bill a little longer,” Sandy said. “I will give you what we agreed on when we made the deal. I will put five dollars on your account and give you a hundred and twenty-five dollars. That will keep your account from being turned over for collection, and it will give you a few extra dollars to spend on the new baby.”


It was over a month later when John came through the door again. A little more confident that he could get a deal out of Sandy, he quickly started a conversation.

“I have a deal on some red cedar,” John said. “It is a big old windfall, excellent stuff. It makes great kindling.”

“You know how the last deal turned out,” Sandy said. “I still hear about that deal from the Doctor.”

“I’ll be more careful this time, and the ground is much better,” John said. “I can drive right to this log.”

“We have our woodshed completed. You could stack it in the woodshed,” Sandy said.

“Yes, like last time, cut, split, and stacked,” John said. “But this is pretty valuable stuff. If I own a hundred and a quarter, that will be just over a half of a pickup load. That will be enough kindling to last you for several years.”

“When you’re done, you drop by the office, and I will give you a receipt of some kind,” Sandy said. “I don’t think I want to pay taxes on firewood for an old bill.”

“We will drop by, and we don’t need a receipt. Doc always says he prefers to do business with a handshake. And my Sandi wants to show you the baby since you gave us some extra money the last time.”


It was late in the afternoon when John and Sandi came by the office. Unlike the day when John delivered the maple, today, he was showered and shaved. Sandi had their baby in her arms. The little girl was approaching 3 months of age.

“I wanted to make sure you had a chance to meet our Josie before she is all grown up,” Sandi said as she lifted the baby up to the counter. “I can’t thank you guys enough for the help you have been.”

Of course, Sandy went around to the reception area to hold Josie. All mothers are the same, and they remember how it was when their baby was shown off.

“We were more than happy to be able to help,” Sandy said. “You two have been good clients, and with the spotted owl business going on around here, times are hard for a lot of folks.”

“Yes, we know that, but you paid for the wood without any hesitation,” Sandi said. “That is what was special. Do you think Doctor would like to peek at Josie?”

“I’ll ask if he has a minute,” Sandy said. “But you know men, one baby is the same as another.”

Sandy, of course, didn’t ask if I had a minute. She instructed me to step out front and say something nice about the baby. 

I stepped out and looked from behind the counter.

“Looks like you did good, John,” I said as I reached across the counter and shook John’s hand. “And you must have had a part in the process also, Sandi.”

“I have a bunch of red cedar stacked in the corner of that new woodshed of yours,” John said. “It will be several years before you will need any new kindling wood. This is really choice stuff.”

“Thanks a lot, John,” I said. “I think Sandy has zeroed out your account. I hope things pick up around here pretty soon for everybody.”

“This red cedar windfall that I am cutting on now will make a big difference for us,” John said. “It will be a good supplement to unemployment probably for a couple of months. Maybe by then, I can come up with another job.”

“John, if you need a reference, we are just a phone call away.”

Photo by Austin Wehrwein on Unsplash

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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