Robert Hitt Neill Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Noo Yawk City woodcutter gets revenge since long ago shootin’

Most readers of this 24-year-old syndicated column will recall that our family has a son-in-law from Noo Yawk City, where my daughter lived and worked for the first 15 years after she graduated from Tulane.

Christie ended up marrying Eddie, who had been born and raised in Brooklyn. He talked just like in the movies or TV, too.

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Eddie had never even handled a firearm before he came to Mississippi to visit, although I had always been under the impression that, if you didn’t have a gun when you got to Noo Yawk City, they issued you one for protection.

I was wrong, obviously. He took to pistol shooting, until he got shot himself, out here at Brownspur where there are no Game Law restrictions on shooting Yankees. It was actually a ricochet, but several of the friends and family who were shooting in the pasture claimed the honor of shooting him, and a small band-aid did cover the damage – the physical damage, anyway. We pointed out that there was no limit on Yankee-shooting in the Game Laws, but he refused offers of an encore.

He got his revenge last week.

He and Chris came for a visit last winter, during a time when it turned cold, and I was almost out of split firewood, though I had cut up more logs earlier in the winter, just hadn’t split more wood than I thought I’d need during the cold weather.

Eddie is considerate of his elders in many ways – for instance, he was the only one to call me on Memorial Day, saying he just wanted to say “Thanks” to a combat veteran – and declared that an elderly person as long in the tooth as his father-in-law ought to let the young’uns do his splitting. Therefore, he hied his way out to the woodpile and picked up the chopping axe.

It should have occurred to me that someone who had never handled a firearm had probably never handled an axe either. Within ten minutes, he had busted the handle on my chopping axe. No worry: I had a splitting mall right there by the woodpile, and he was a tall strong young man.

98-year-old Deacon Pete Ford, whose son Jessie taught me how to drive a tractor, and who still lives across the road from us, once told me on a wood-cutting expedition, “It ain’t how hard you hit it; it’s WHERE you hit it!”  

Eddie quickly demonstrated that if one swings a splitting mall with all one’s might down upon a chinaberry log, but misunderestimates the log size and the axe head actually misses the log entirely so that the whole force of the blow is absorbed by the handle on the log, then the wooden handle will crack completely in two.

No problem; Joe Turner Hardware was in business at that time to sell axe handles.  

Onliest thing is, Jack didn’t have a chopping axe handle at the time.

So, Eddie bought another mall handle, and a brand new double-bitted axe. He did split enough wood to get us through that last cold spell, and the axes, plus the chopping axe head, have been sitting by the woodpile ever since, while I had chainsawed many more logs to be split. Then Eddie and Christie couldn’t come Thanksgiving.

Now it has sho’nuff turnt cold, and I was going to have to split some wood myownself. My chopping axe was still handleless, but there was an almost brand-new double-bitted axe and a splitting mall with an almost new handle. Since I’ve hardly ever used a double-bitted axe, I thought I’d try that one, although I vaguely remembered that Eddie had cracked it last winter.

Indeed he had. At my first blow, the axehead disassembled from the rest of the handle! Oh well, I’d druther have a splitting mall anyway, if I had my druthers.

The splitting mall lasted about four logs. It too had been cracked sometime long ago. I walked into the hardware store with three axeheads, although the chopping axe was probably 20 years old, so I’m having to whittle that’un down to size before using it. I got a fiberglass mall handle, if I can figure out how it fits on.

Eddie waited a long time for his revenge, but I know it was sweet, for him!