My first fire of the season in the fireplace is often a dud. Crumple newspapers, lay a rough pyramid of twigs or kindling over the newspapers, construct a second pyramid over the first of larger sticks or small boards, lay a couple of split logs to either side, light. The cold weather has come suddenly, the wood may be damp, there are a dozen other things to be done on the farm, and haste now makes waste. Pyramid two collapses onto pyramid one, essentially extinguishing the hoped-for blaze. If provident, I will have laid in some waxed fire-starter sticks. If not, more newspapers torn into thin strips are draped over the smoldering ruins and lit with a match. Repeat maybe once or twice, always risking completely smothering the timid flames with the ash of the newspapers. Eventually, sooner or later, a fire burns, reluctantly, as if to ask, Why have you awakened me from my long summer vacation?
In the old days, RoseMary and I would go on wood runs up into the Sangre de Cristos, in the El Valle area, or on the slopes of Picuris Peak, and seek out dead and down ponderosa and piñon to load into a succession of old Chevy pickups. Despite balky chainsaws, torn muscles and the extra labor, it was always a gratifying experience to trundle down the highway with a heavy load of firewood to our home in Dixon.