The buck seemed to respond to their proximity and activity by moving closer to the tree line on the West end of Percy’s field, and then, at a majestic pace, disappearing into the woods.
The three men walked the boundaries and discussed the details of what was to be done.
Satisfied they all had a clear idea of what was to happen; Percy excused himself, and collected his paraphernalia to return home.
Hank shouted after him, “Be sure to thank your missus for the coffee and great donuts.”
Ab and Hank moved their trucks to the back of the field.
It was obvious to each how the work was to be done. Where each would start and how far apart they would work to keep each other out of harms way.
As each reached their respective starting points, Ab shouted, “Let’s knock ‘em down and pile ‘em up.”
In the next instant the sound of ax blows rang across the field.
Hank reveled in the hard work. This is the “free men’s” work which Hank had thought about in the foxholes of Europe. In Europe Hank observed the evidences of serfdom and its repression of men. And the Nazi’s (national socialism) with its enslavement of men.
America was founded as a nation of laws, which had paradoxically made it a nation of free men. Free to worship the God of heaven and earth openly, free to own land, free to advance as far as his ambition and abilities could take him. Where governments existed to punish the evil and reward the good. To protect private property rights and free enterprise.
This was the America Hank had grown up in and loved. This is the heritage he wished to pass to his children. This is the America he was willing to share with the millions of war weary refugees that would make their way to its shores. Men and women who wanted to become Americans. Not hyphenated “half-hearts” clinging to failed philosophies. Not people desiring to change America into what they had left behind. Not irresponsible parasites that would ultimately destroy their hosts.
Though Hank’s part in the war was an ocean away and almost a year in the past, he knew it would never be more than a memory away. The images and the fears they sometimes brought always came unbidden. And could distract from the present reality but, so far in Hank’s case, never had become his present reality.
Hank heard the familiar snap and crash of a tree coming down. Ab had polished off his beech tree quickly. Another ten blows and Hank’s ash also crashed heavily to the earth.
After an hour or so they took a break, each commenting on the effect of the intense physical labor. Hank observed, “My farmer’s calluses are always in the wrong place for my woodsman’s work.” Ab seemed to understand and added, “It is true. In fact, the farmer’s calluses can pinch the softer skin against the ax handle. It is that way in life – you think you are ready, but find that life can use your calluses against you. And discover where you don’t have your calluses yet.”
Hank continued the idea, “Quite profound Mr. Dunn; well in three days we will be so sore we will not be making these distinctions.”
Each took another swallow of water and then walked back to their work. And though they worked under a late August sun the air had the cool edge of fall in it, the net effect was most pleasant.
As they took up their axes, Ab reminded, “Knock-en ‘em down is the easy part.”
As Hank’s ax began once again taking bites out of a tree he thought about his family and wondered how the things were going at home. Hank was as aware as ever of his dependence on God.