One of my first solo clothing purchases when I was a teenager was a pair of shoes.
I had been wanting these particular shoes quite a while. They were white leather with a blue Converse star on each side. Upon wearing them, I would be the sophomore sensation. I would be “styling,” as we used to say.
I walked in the store, told the salesman my size, and he disappeared behind that curtain that all shoe stores had.
As I waited, I realized just how grown up I was. I probably scoffed at the children who were there — fidgeting and wincing while their mothers searched for the end of their toe with an iron thumb.
Just about the time my superiority had reached a fever pitch, the salesman re-emerged empty handed.
“We have them in a 10, but not a 10 and a half.”
“Bring me the 10s.”
They were beautiful. They were perfect. They were also too short.
“I’ll take them.”
My logic went something like this. Since they’re leather, they must stretch. When a cow grows, the hide grows as well. It makes perfect sense. It’s science.
Besides, that upcoming weekend I was going to Knoxville for a football game. How better to stretch out a pair of shoes than walking 10 miles before climbing to row 740 in the stadium?
It went exactly as you would expect. I learned a painful lesson with the shoes. But sadly, that knowledge hasn’t always extrapolated to other situations.
Fast forward three and a half decades to last Tuesday.
We had been out of firewood since the end of last winter. Yes, I could’ve bought it at the beginning of spring and let it season over the summer. Or, I could’ve bought it during October before demand grew. Or, I could’ve bought it in December when the temperature was in the 70s and they couldn’t give it away.
But, I didn’t. Instead, I headed out after work at dusk last Tuesday, only a few hours before the snow was forecast to begin.
I pulled up to the lot where at least three or four wood trucks normally sit.
Of course, there sat one – free to name his own price without any competition within 10 miles.
It instantly became clear why this guy was the last one left. His wood obviously was still a thriving tree a couple of days before. It was so green and heavy I could barely pick up a stick with one hand.
I knew better, but I was in a pinch.
The guy quoted me the price.
“I’ll take it.”
My logic went something like this. I still have a few old sticks I can mix it with to help it burn. It will cure fairly fast. Plus, it’s not like we depend on the heat. We largely burn a fire for looks. It’ll be fine.
The same way shoes don’t stretch, green firewood doesn’t burn very well. Still, we used it a couple of nights, and I was able to coax it into flickering a little bit by supplementing it with kindling and lots of paper from my shred pile.
It never put out much heat, but it smelled good and looked nice.
As luck would have it, though, last Sunday morning I woke up to a dead heat pump and a cold house to go along with my stack of green firewood which was now under an inch of snow.
I spent the day shivering, stoking and cramming reams of junk mail, old check stubs, and other obsolete papers under the fireplace grate. By evening, I had created enough coals to keep it going, but it was a struggle.
The whole situation make me reminisce about those shoes. I wished I still had them.
I’ll bet they would burn.