Went to the farm late this afternoon and conversed with two brothers whom Dad had given permission to cut firewood from fallen or falling trees. Ages fifty-eight and sixty-four, they said they were, I think, talkative fellows whom I had met only once before, in passing. I interviewed them more than they interviewed me, I estimate.
Celeste stayed home, recovering from frying a large batch of chicken breasts.
When the woodcutters returned to their nearly completed task, beyond the stone pile below the barn, I went into the farmhouse cellar, by way of an east-facing exterior door that no longer completely closes, to evaluate a wood stove, a little furnace, I guess it is, that Barry thought might possibly be somehow hauled out into the yard for the principal purpose of incinerating documents of unlikely historical value, of which we have millions. I inspected the stove and judged it to be unsuitable for our hoped-for purpose. Too rusted, too heavy, too small. And racoons, puzzlingly, disturbingly, had apparently used it as a restroom.
The woodcutters had driven to Fjord from Neshnabek, the elder brother, and all the way from Sauk City, the younger, in two pickup trucks, one of them towing an open trailer of length sufficient to transport a gas-powered log splitter, a four-wheel ATV, and, eventually besides, quite an amazing quantity of freshly split seasoned elm. The brothers, factory workers, both of them, and both with an early scheduled end of work day on this particular Friday, seemed to make some inferences about me, maybe from my flannel shirt and faded Levis, my way grown out crewcut, and my remark that my father, with his parents, had purchased the farm in 1946, as if maybe they, the woodcutters, assumed I’d grown up here and thought I knew something about farms and manly things. One of them mentioned at one point someone’s having rebuilt a “five seven,” and I asked, “A fifty-seven Chevy?” and he answered, “A five point seven liter engine. In a Chevy truck.”
I shall never know enough about farms and manly things to be misidentified for long as anyone other than a soft-palmed city boy, but I know now one little bit more than at the start of this day. Celeste, proud possessor of a low-mileage, twelve-year-old Taurus, would probably scoff if I boasted of what I had learned. “A five point something engine in some kind of Chevy?” I suspect she would say. “Who cares what’s in a Chevrolet?”