So, early afternoon on Super Bowl Sunday, my buddy and neighbor, Brian Carisch and I hopped in his truck to drive a couple miles over to where we’d heard there was an “endless” supply of chopped wood that the “guy was just giving away.” We didn’t know exactly where the place was, but we figured we could nose around a little and find it. I mean, you can’t hide an endless pile of chopped wood.
Brian and I hopped out at a residence where we saw some wood piled up by a driveway and a solidly built, long-pepper-gray-hair guy looking at us. We got out to see if he at least might know where the wood was.
Sure enough, this was the place. The guy’s name is Dave, and turns out he’s a “board-certified arborist.” Not every day that you go out searching for a pile of free chopped wood and you meet an arborist. Life in the South? Perhaps not so ironically, this preserver of trees had a great deal of chopped up trees, sorted into five or six enormous piles. “This one here’s for Champy’s. I have a buddy there who needs the hickory for smoking. But all the rest is yours. Take whatever you need.” The chunks were well split, but cut from big trees that had been hauled in from somewhere else.
Brian and I trekked up and down the muddy drive a dozen times filling up the bed. We thanked Dave for his generosity after we listened to his story about his 3.75 percent financing on this house he’d just moved into a couple weeks back. “You know, I’ve heard about how far Chattanooga’s come along in the past 20 years, and I figured this was as good a place as any to buy something. Especially for the price.”
I’m no real estate person, and I don’t know what he paid, but I would say his spot is as safe a bet as any. It’s a pretty low-rent area, but it’s like a half mile from the river, and half a mile up a steep hill are the Stringer’s Ridge trails.
As Brian and I were about to step in his truck, someone yelled from behind us, “Hey, you guy’s burn firewood?”
We turned around, not sure what to say with our truck bed full of firewood.
It was Dave’s next door neighbor, also of long hair streaked with gray. He wore a blue-green tie-die shirt, and hitched-up jeans that looked one belt loop shy of falling off his hips. Homemade tats traced his forearms. “You guys burn firewood?” he asked again.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Brian said.
“Well, I tell you what. I know where you all can get all the wood you want. You know where that old hotel was? Well, a huge tree fell on it and crushed it and it’s all there for anyone who wants it. I want it gone. Take all you want.”
We figured out where the guy meant. It was only a mile or so away.
“All right,” we said. “We’ll check it out. Thanks.”
“You just go to the hotel and ask for Buster. Buster’s the owner. Talk to Buster and he’ll let you take it.” The wood wasn’t chopped and we had to find Buster first. “That’s right!” The guy said again. “Take all you want.”