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Hay’s Daze: Splitting hairs and splitting logs, a May long weekend tradition

May Long already?? No, May long, finally! What we fossils used to call the May 24th Weekend was always the early kick-off to summer, to Varsity Hall at Sylvan Lake, to the first of three or four magic months of music and parties and being young and energetically foolish. And here I am, all these years later, thrilled with splitting logs.

Back in the day, we always had a campfire somewhere on the May long weekend of course, whether it happened to be raining, storming or what Albertans like to call a “late spring” – (translation: a ton of snow).

In fact, one chilly 24th a bunch of us crashed out in sleeping bags huddled around the campfire only to wake up in the cold dawn completely covered in white stuff. I was like a bunch of random lumps forming snowbanks that circled the dead fire. But it wasn’t snow this time, it was thick white ash spewed out by the slowly dying fire and heaped upon us during the night.

Combine those May memories with the fact that a good friend and I recently cut down a couple of dead spruce on his acreage, bucked dozens of logs, hauled them away and piled them in my yard, I figured it was time to split all that thick heavy wood for our backyard firepit. And since the well-worn personal C1 and C2 vertebrae aren’t that happy these days my attempt at slamming an axe several hundred times ended at three swings, two Tylenol and a one-hour nap. So when I eventually recovered I limped to my desktop and went online to search for a used log splitter.

My much much older sister, who was always my babysitter growing up, was aghast when I told her. “You’ll kill yourself with that thing!” she said in no uncertain terms. She of course thought I was getting a wood chipper, which would in fact no doubt lead to my unpleasant and graphic demise.

No, a little 4-ton log splitter stands about the size of a backyard barbeque and horizontally squeezes a small log onto a heavy wedge, moving about as fast as molasses uphill in January, as my grandma used to say.

When I finally found one on the cyber marketplace for a crazy-good price I told the guy I would take it. “I’m in Drayton Valley”, the guy said, “Can you come and get it?” This was just before the ridiculous price of gas was measured tens of dollars instead of hundreds, so I said I could do with a nice spring road trip.

Long story short, it was a scam. Who knew the internet had scammers, eh? After a week of him rescheduling and telling me different locations to “drop off the money” he finally said, “Sorry, the log splitter’s been stolen! Some creep took it from my apartment balcony!” Sure, buddy, sure. Luckily for me, he somehow must have had a weak moment of guilt and backed out of the con.

A week later I drove to Wetaskiwin to pick up a nice little used electric log splitter from a guy that was clearly not a whack-job and who gave me a good price without splitting hairs. And I’ve been happily splitting away in the backyard ever since.

You wouldn’t believe how strangely, satisfyingly meditative it is to split logs with a sturdy, efficient, well-designed machine. A machine that won’t kill you or cause your lower back to go into debilitating spasms.

So rain or shine, sleet or snow, I’ll be out there enjoying my logs. After all, it is May Long.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can email him column ideas to harleyhay1@hotmail.com