The Woods

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade August 2001

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?The Woods? I awoke the the smell of smoke filling the room and a orange glow appeared in front of me. The heat was increasing in my small log home as the logs provided the flames with fuel. I realized something had to be done. I rose from the bed and placed my flannel cap and leather boots on. I ran to the main door and outside where I was met with a chilly burst of winter air. Running to the well I noticed the line bringing the bucket up was frozen solid. I was furious. I contemplated my next move but nothing was coming to me. The numbing of the cold winter air was now traveling throughout my body. I stood in awe and watched my house of beauty slowly burn away. There was nothing I could do.

I first built this house back in 1963 when me and my family of 3 separated.

My wife got custody of my only child Jacob. At the time Jacob was 3, just barely the age to remember anything. His mother, Mary took him from me when I was 43 all for the reason that she thought I was sleeping with other women. I was alone.

I ran to Joe?s barn, a good friend who was now dead. I enjoyed my time alone and eventually came to the idea to build my own house using my own gifts from god. I was now a single man with nothing. I had all the time in the world. I sat day after day month after month trying to devise a sketch of what I wanted my small house to look like. I would build it in a place where no one could find me. Finally after 4 months I had found it. My plans for the house were as follows. I would build it out of the huge pine trees that encircled this 70 acre woodlot. I knew winter was coming so I had to begin getting the main shelter area built. But first I needed to cut the trees. I began on Sept 6, 1963.

I rummaged around Joes small garage to search for the tools I would need. I found most of what I would need, An old rusty hand saw, hammer, nails, and huge roles of rope. I also found some old barbed wire which he used to place out to fence in his cattle. I grabbed it and began my journey back to the woods to where I knew the biggest trees were located. My first tree was a huge white pine with a trunk that was a big round as I was. This would provide for a perfect base, I thought. I began the tedious task with the small hand saw. I could feel the aches of my shoulder mussels. I still continued without any feeling of pain. It took me about 2 hours to cut through the pine but I knew it was worth my time. I figured on about 4 trees per day. The first day I got exactly that. Four large pines. Now I had to get them into a square formation to form my base. I ended up cutting about 4 feet of the 70 foot pines. Each were placed perfectly in their spot. Night was now falling on my first day out and I was exhausted. I laid down with my head on a log and slowly dazed off into a deep sleep.

The next day was hot with temperatures in the 90?s. I awoke and walked down to find a creek that I knew was fed by a natural spring. The smell of the pine sap that coated my clothes followed me through the woods. I found the creek and sure enough it was fed bye a natural spring. I filled my canteen which I carried in from the few things I was left with. I took off my clothes and plunged into the chilly water. I washed myself and quickly jumped out to dry off. My stomach was telling me that I was hungry. But what was I to eat? I searched around and eventually making circles trying to find something. Soon I spotted a small patch of morel mushrooms. I ran over and picked them and carefully placed them in my pockets. I knew that these were all I had for a few days until I could make my own weapons to kill. I walked back to my building grounds and sat down on a cool log. I pulled the mushrooms from my pocket and began to examine their rough texture. By now I was so hungry that I didn?t care what they had on them. All I cared about was eating them. I took the first bite out of one that had a ring of dirt around the bottom. It didn?t seem to bother me since my hunger overtook my body. I ate one bye one. Eventually I found myself dozing off and taking a nap.

I awoke around mid afternoon that day after taking a revitalizing nap. I examined all my work that I had done thus far and realized how much more I needed. I began gathering long Indian grasses that I could use as a roof. I wove them together in tight patterns along with long braches. I set it aside and began to work more on the main structure. My base was set with four large pines and all that I need now were smaller logs to make up the sides of the walls. I ventured out again into the woods to search for what I needed. I picked up logs along the way and eventually had my arms full of wood. I dragged them back and began to assemble them with rope and nails. Soon I had accomplished two of the four walls I had needed. I could feel the pain coming to my back as if their were a log pushing on it. My hands were dry and callused from the hard work. I could feel the callused areas begin to break open and ooze. I knew I had to find a bandage for my hands so I could continue my work. I found a couple of large green oak tree leaves that I could wrap around my hands to provide protection. I used a small amount of the water from my canteen to try and subdue the stinging pain. My fingers began to curl up with arthritis. I knew I had to keep going. I pushed myself day after day from dawn to dusk trying to build something. My small rations of mushrooms were running low. I knew that without food I wasn?t going to be able to finish building. I knew I would need this energy. On nights when I had the energy to walk back to the barn I would do so and search for some type of weapon I could use. In searching I came across a family of mice which to me looked much more appetizing than a soggy mushroom. I placed the mice in my pockets and walked back to the site. I slowly cooked them over small fire I had built out of pine needles and wood shavings. They tasted so good. Their tiny skeletons crunched in my mouth like a potato chip. My stomach was now full and It was time for some rest.

The next day I began digging for my well and eventually I hit water. I placed a stone ring around the hole and tied a rope from a branch with a bucket on the end. I used the water for washing my face and boiling for drinking.

It was now November and I knew it would soon become very cold. I had managed to get four walls standing with mud and pine needles in-between. I placed a large hole in the roof where the smoke from the fire could escape. I was proud of what I had built. My bed consisted of three hay bails with a old horse blanket thrown over the top. The hut kept me warm throughout the cold Wisconsin winter nights. Until one night when I awoke to smoke and flames. A pair of pants had fell off my bed and into the fire which ignited the blaze. I was forced to start over again.