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Good bow saw gets me through winter

My bow saw is 30 years old, maybe older. Can't remember who or what influenced that first purchase years ago, but it still does the job -- although the frame is rusting and the blade has never been sharpened.

The saw has been influenced by the passing of time, as have I, but its condition has never been a concern. It has always been as good as I am. In fact, if health concerns dictate that you get your heart rate up, get a bow saw and cut some wood.

This has been a good winter for my bow saw and me. The cold days have meant more fires. If you have ever hung out in this space, you know the great affinity I have for fireplaces and real fires.

I'll never build a house, but if I did, one of the things that I would include would be a fireplace in the bedroom. It probably makes it easier to go to sleep and stay asleep. Once, in Vermont, we found a bed and breakfast place, and learned that each bedroom had a fireplace. Firewood was neatly stacked to the side. There was starter wood and a box of matches. The fire ignited quickly. Soon there were the crackling and popping sounds of a real fire. The smoke seeped out and into the room. You could smell the smoke, see the flames, hear the popping of the wood -- I've never slept better.

If I were an artist, I would take a trip to Switzerland and paint those neat stacks of wood that proliferate the landscape. I have always been charmed by the stacks of wood in the Alpine regions of Europe. They cut their wood in the spring and summer, letting it cure for the coming of the cold season.

That is also a scene you often find throughout New England. Cutting and stacking firewood for the winter is a common practice in Vermont and its sister states. My guess is that most New Englanders heat with gas or electricity, but they likely opt for a little atmosphere when snow is on the ground and the wind is howling.

The world's greatest neighbor, Agnew Peacock, always keeps me supplied with firewood. Lately, however, he has been able to take a break. We lost a tree a winter ago. We had it cut into firewood and stacked the firewood on the back of the lot. We are in our second season of firewood from the loss of that oak. There is a lot left -- enough for at least another winter.

When firewood is green, you need a mix of starter wood, and I am not into buying wood. Agnew, thankfully, takes care of the basic needs, and I scavenge for starter wood when I talk my walks in the morning. Don't suppose my neighbors mind. At least no one has complained thus far.

When my neighbors stack their dead limbs on the edge of their property, awaiting the county to pick them up, I usually grab a couple of limbs as I walk. I drag them up to the corner near my house. Then, I drag the limbs I have collected from my walk to my side porch. After two or three days, or more, I have a nice stack of dead limbs -- perfect for starting a fire.

That is where my bow saw comes in handy. Even with a blade that has never been sharpened, it has plenty of life. It glides right through the wood quickly and efficiently. A bow saw gets its name because it is shaped like a bow. It is also known as a "swede" saw and a "buck" saw.

You can't run a household without a hammer, a screwdriver, an umbrella, a plumber's helper, or coat hangers. If you like a fire to begin and end your day and you are an enterprising wood scavenger, you can only bring energy and atmosphere to your fireplace if you own a bow saw.

Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.