As I walked my dog down a wooded trail towards the horse campground at a local state park, I enjoyed and appreciated the shade of the large cottonwood trees above me. The temperature was a 85 degrees, but with the humidity felt like 96. In the distance, progressively growing louder, I heard laughter accompanied by the occasional “thumping” sound. As I got closer to a clearing, I came upon five teenagers, somewhere in the 13-16 range, throwing double sided axes at logs. These roughly 18 inch long by 10 inch diameter logs were precariously laid at a 45 degree angle so thrown axes had the opportunity to hit their mark should the thrower toss on target.
Overseeing this maylay was a gentleman about my age (mid-40’s) who watched on with cautious amusement. He made sure the throwers were well distanced and gave feedback to ensure everyone stayed safe. The youth throwing were covered in sweat, but they didn’t seem to mind. This was fun! Judging by the large amount of sweat and very few split pieces of wood, they’d been at it awhile with little success.
The person overseeing the throwing noticed and invited me over for a closer look. He even offered up an axe, beckoning me to give it a try. I declined, but watched for a little bit at the determination on the young faces.
“Ya know,” the overseer said, “chopping your own wood will warm you twice. Once now, once tonight when the temp drops. At least with a few good double-sided axes, the kids can make the work, fun.”
As a kid, I grew up in the southeastern part of Minnesota. Our early 1970’s built house had a fuel oil furnace augmented by two large fireplaces. My dad, every May, would identify a handful of trees for harvesting. Then, he’d invite a couple of his brothers or brothers in law over. They’d chainsaw the trees down, cut them into manageable logs, and sit on the tailgate of the truck and drink a couple beers. They would tell me and my cousins (if they showed up, otherwise it was me) to “Work harder, not smarter. Don’t think! It’ll make this worse and we haven’t got all day. Get it loaded into the trucks!”
Once wood was loaded in trucks and family members departed, my dad and I would back up to the wood pile and neatly heap the logs where the sun could dry them out. Within a few months, we were back out with the 8 pound splitting maul where we’d take turns reducing the size of the logs to burnable pieces. We’d then have to lug these a couple hundred yards uphill to an outside staging area, before bringing transferring into an inside wood bin. My dad would say “Wood warms you from the day you cut it down to the day you burn it up.” He couldn’t be more right.
Let’s be clear, I hated that job. I still get the willies when I have to split up wood to start a fire when camping. There was nothing fun about it (it’s probably why I have low back problems to this day!). It was a shitload of work! If you’ve never swung an 8 lbs chopping maul, go to your local hardware store and pick one up. Great workout, but going at it for hours hurts.
But, work doesn’t have to be like an 8 lbs. splitting maul. Many see their jobs as having to lug a weight around and swing at a task in hopes of getting it done quickly. You dread it and hope it’d done quick.
Instead, think of it as the double sided ax. Sure, it’s work, but you can enjoy it, also. For example, I took over a project that had been going on 6 months. It was a hard project developing a new software platform for the company. The team was burned out and the area they worked quiet as a tomb. So to have a little fun, we created awards. The “Code Integrator Master”, which was an old Boy Scout trophy, was given to the person’s whose code merged without errors. In contrast, we had the “Dear Dumbass” trophy for whose code had the most errors. Ironically, it was a “Runner Up” bowling trophy from 1972. The team worked hard and there were moments when it felt like we were swinging an axe hard, but others where we had a lot of good laughs too!
So, what is work to you? Is it an 8 lbs. maul that’s a dread to swing? Or, is it a double bladed axe that is still work, but a little bit of fun also? It’s up to you to decide.