By: Robert B. Foust Stoneboro, PA
The anticipation was over, the day was finally here. You know the one…the second Monday of October. What? You say it doesn't ring a bell? Weeeellll…Allow me to tell you what it meant to a 10-year-old boy and his Grandfather.
You see the second Monday of October was always "Fall Break" in our tiny Western Pennsylvania town. It was the day most kids had been waiting for after putting the long September haul behind them. Hot days in the classroom have turned into crisp mornings of blue skies and golden mantles of leaves above a small woodlot known as Behrsford's Woods. It is in this woodlot that a story of a boy, his Grandfather and a little red Cub are played out.
Funny how waking up early didn't seem to matter much when you were sleeping over at your Grandparents' house. Six-thirty would have been considered outlandish at home, but somehow it felt so natural in the drafty old second floor of the farmhouse. Even though I didn't drink it, the aroma of coffee wafting up the stairs seemed so inviting, as if to pull me out of bed. I knew it was time to get ready.
After a hot breakfast, it was time to head to the garage with Gramps and prepare the equipment for a good, honest day's work. The Cub would sit in her usual spot…the spot where the car should actually go had it not been reduced to an outside spot in the driveway. After the saws were inspected and fueled, I remember distinctively my Grandfather standing to the far side of the Cub to engage the choke at the carburetor, and after a quick wiggle of the gearshift he'd fire the old girl up. Since the muffler had been removed some time ago, the snap and crack of the little four cylinder certainly got the blood flowing. It was my job to place the pin in the drawbar after Gramps had backed up to the wood trailer and so I did. I'd hop in the trailer and away we went to Behrsford's Woods (which was a property across the main highway from the farmhouse…it had been "tree'ed" about 5 years prior, and there were many red oak, white oak and beech treetops to choose from).
The path was a winding one, and cut through the grapevines and wild rose bushes, but would periodically open into areas of maple with only high fiery branches stretched out over our heads. I watched the rear tires from my perch in the trailer as they cut through the ruts left by the huge log skidder a few years ago. The Cub would climb in and out of these ruts with little difficulty, leaving distinctive tracks with the interlocking tread-style of the Davis tires. I can remember the smell of the exhaust and how it had it's own odor…it seemed to be so much different than any other motor known to me at the time. Oh yes, and the sound; the purr of a working Cub is music to an appreciating ear. Once we were in an area that was relatively flat, it was my turn. He'd stop the Cub and set the brake so we could switch places. "First gear and easy on the clutch"…away we'd go, down to the slashing.
Gramps would cut and I would load. Eventually I would be able to use the second saw, but not yet. I remember so well hearing the "drumming" of a grouse in those times he stopped the saw for re-fueling. I can also remember keeping a watch for antler rubs from the white-tailed deer, so prevalent in our area.
Finally we'd have our load and we'd drive up and out of the woods. By now it was nearing lunchtime and my stomach would begin to growl for a ham and cheese sandwich and soup of the day as prepared with love by my Gran. After a satisfying meal and a dose of the noon news with Bill Burns on KDKA-TV out of Pittsburgh (KDKA was the ONLY news you could watch at their house), we would go unload at the woodpile behind the garage.
The afternoon would repeat the pattern of the morning and on a good day we could bring out three loads before the long shadows of late afternoon would draw our work to a close. The Cub would pull the trailer to its spot and I'd do my faithful duty of pulling the pin and centering the tongue of the trailer on a block of wood. Gramps would pull away and the Cub would crackle past the car into the garage for the evening. A hot supper of chopped steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, buttered cauliflower and ice cream would be waiting for us in the kitchen. We always had to be careful to shake the sawdust out of our cuffs as Gran's cleaning day would have been a waste of time had we not.
Around six o'clock the headlights of my Dad's 1974 Impala would shine into the driveway, signaling the time for me to go home. After my good-byes, I would go to the car and expound to Mom and Dad about my day in Behrsford's Woods.
I am now thirty-five years old and would so enjoy just one more day with my Grandparents. The farm is still in my family and the Cub with its wood trailer is now in my charge. I have an 18 month old boy and my hope is that soon he and I will be able to spend a day with the Cub and a saw in Behrsford's woods.