While much of America enjoys four equal seasons, those of us in Texas celebrate two: Hot and less hot.

Between October and February, it’s kinda cold in Texas. The rest of the year, it’s hot and humid.

But, as September gives way to October, there is a feeling, albeit a fleeting one, of relief.

Fall is here.

Generally, Arkansas has colder winters than we do in the Lone Star State. Consequently, I spent much of the spring of my life splitting firewood. Lots of firewood.

But, splitting wood brought a sense of fulfillment. It was one of my chores that made me feel as if I was pulling my weight in the family.

The man from whom we bought firewood would deliver a cord to our backyard. I would take it from there. Wood that wasn’t already split was far cheaper, so I would spend after-school hours and weekends with a sledgehammer and wedge, an axe, and a monster maul.

A monster maul looks like a wedge with a handle. They are quite heavy and are very effective in breaking apart a large log. Of course, when I was younger, I was also more effective in breaking apart a large log.

I would judge my progress by how high the stack of split wood had grown. When the stack of split wood was larger than the stack of unspilt wood, I knew I was on the downhill slope.

When the first cold snap arrived, I would have the wood stack ready to go. I would wait for my mother to say the words, “I think we should build a fire.” With pride, I would retrieve an armload of wood, bring it in, and build a fire for my family.

Many a Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year were welcomed in front of those fires.

Family and friends would gather. The women would congregate in front of the fire, turning themselves from front to back as they equally warmed themselves, and talked and laughed.

The seasons turned into years, and many of the faces no longer gather in front of the fire. But new faces have taken their place.

Much of the gathering and fire building now happens at my home.

Here, in the fall of my life, the wood splitting remains.

The sledgehammer and wedge, axe, and monster maul have been replaced by a gasoline-powered log splitter. The pile of wood, seasoned and ready to burn, sits next to my shop.

The wood stove that heats our home will soon be fueled by the efforts of last season, bringing warmth and memories and pride.

Splitting wood still brings a sense of fulfillment. It still makes me feel as if I am pulling my weight in the family.

I’m just waiting for the first cold snap, and my wife to say, “I think we should build a fire.”

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— John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website — TheCountryWriter.com. You can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.

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