Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Appalachian Dialect

Appalachia Through My Eyes – He Ricked up the Wood

My life in appalachia rick the wood up

Mighty aggravating to rick up the wood you just split when someone keeps sticking their cell phone in your face, just ask The Deer Hunter if you don’t believe me.

The other day on the Blind Pig Facebook page and Instagram Feed, I mentioned ricking firewood by the stove was fun if you had good company to help you. Someone said they had never heard the term used in reference to firewood.

Ricking means stacking firewood that has been cut and split in an orderly manner. We always rick our firewood in the basement, however we don’t always achieve the orderly part.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    George Pettie is right about the risk of sunburn from a fireplace. That’s why I said “if you are near it long enough”. From what I understand UV light is produced at around 500°C or 932°F. A good roaring fire can exceed 1100°F. Most likely you won’t get a sunburn from your fireplace but years ago when people spent all winter in front of one they would have a head start on next summers tan.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    January 26, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Many excellent comments on this one. I’m reminded of the endless cords of firewood I cut, split and ricked up back in the day, and also more recently. Even with tractor, logging chains, good chainsaw, truck and splitting maul, it was a long day that pulled in, cut, split and ricked a full cord. Power splitters make it easier and faster these days, but a cord is still a good day’s output for one man.
    I agree with Don Casada’s post, and with Ed’s longer post, about the measurements. We ricked up wood, but a rick (or rack) was always just a face cord–4’x8’x cut length that was usually 16″-18″, so a rick was about a third or so of a full cord. Those “pick-up loads” are never full cords. A full cord of oak or hickory weighs about two tons. The poor pick-up trucks would groan and struggle under such a load.
    I must disagree with the shorter post by Ed (are there two Eds, or did the same Ed post twice?) There’s not much risk of “sunburn” from a wood fire. True, the radiant energy emanates out from the fire at the speed of light to hit everything within line-of-sight, warming all those surfaces. But that is infrared energy–heat only. Sunburns are caused by the very different ultraviolet light–lots of it from the sun but next to none from the fireplace.

  • Reply
    January 26, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Ricking wood, staking wood, for years when I was living at home I thought my name was Getwood… I miss the good heat but not the work.. When my wife and I first married we worked together cutting and hauling wood.. But things have changed, since those days.. it’s Propane and Electric now..

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    January 26, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    We have a rick of wood racked in our basement 😉

  • Reply
    January 26, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Tipper and B.Ruth – An open fire puts out radiant heat as well as heating the air around it. Radiant heat is like the sun and you can actually get a sunburn from a campfire or fireplace if you are near it long enough. The reason it feels different is because it is different.
    You can also get flashburned by looking into an open fire too long, like looking directly at an arc welder does, but it takes a lot longer.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    January 26, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    I guess I’ve handled as much blooming wood as anyone, especially for the last 30 years or so. Back when we was little, my just older brother thought his name was “git wood” till he got old enough to leave home.
    I love playing in the woodpile. Anymore I buy a load of logs and saw it up myself. Usually I get almost 6 cord for $185.00 and my friend brings it all the way from Nantahala. I prefer Hickory. One thing tho, you have to handle that stuff an awful lot, but I ain’t got much to do anyway.
    We still got some snow here at Granny Squirrel, but I got plenty up at my house
    in Topton. Some of my road is on the North Side and it’s slick as a frog’s belly.
    Thankfully, my 4 wheel drive has no problem and I had drifts 10″ deep…Ken

  • Reply
    January 26, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    I had intended to ask you if you ricked your firewood. A rick is a cord of wood on the face. A cord is 4 feet high by 4 feet deep by 8 feet long so it might take more than one rick to make a real cord depending on how long you cut it. Wood for a fireplace usually has two ricks, for a wood heater three and for a cookstove four. When I used to cut pulpwood for the papermills, it had to be five feet long. We gave them 1¼ cords for every one we got paid for.
    Most of the pulpwood haulers had the standards* on their trucks marked to hold two cords. We didn’t have a truck so we had hire someone. Most of the time it was my great uncle “Sweetbread”. We hauled it to Bryson City and stacked it off onto a railcar. I don’t remember how much we got for a cord but it wasn’t much considering the work that went into it.
    We never bought any firewood. We had plenty available on the property. We didn’t have a basement so we ricked it up outside against the back of the house. We only brought in enough for the night. Wood kept in the house dries out too much and burns too fast. You get a lot of heat but most of it goes up the “chimley”. Some of the wood for the cookstove, which needs a hot fire at times, was ricked up on the back porch. Often we stacked our stovewood (as wood for the cookstove was known as opposed to heaterwood.) pigpen style. That entailed stacking layers of split pieces in opposite directions. This aided in air circulation for quicker drying but couldn’t be measured as precisely as ricking.
    In my world, ricking was for long-term storage and pigpenning for faster drying. I don’t ever remember selling any firewood but often helped friends and neighbors get theirs in.
    * Standards are the uprights along the sides of a wood truck bed that held the wood in place.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 26, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Just wondered? Do you all keep a kindling box in the basement…for starting that first fire or one that had burned down real low!
    We kept a small kindling box on the porch. Sometimes, back in the olden days…ha…I would gather up some brown paper bags and walk around in the edges of the woods and gather up broken and dry branch pieces….stuff that brown bag full. I would stack those brown bags over in the corner somewhere…When I was here by myself and needed to start a fire, I would place the whole brown bag in the stove and light the bottom. In a few minutes I had a roaring fire that I could add the big pieces to…Most of the time I didn’t have any “rich wood” but those broken dry pine branches from our Loblolly stand of pines sure did burn like “rich wood”!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS….Sometimes I miss a fire in the fireplace…It is so warm and just a different feeling from the heat…Does that make sense? However, at our age, we couldn’t handle all the work like we used to do…especially since near all our wood we burned here was cut off our place…Only one time do I ever remember having to buy a rick of wood! It was a pick-up truck load, but by the time me and the boys stacked it, well, it was very short of a rick…I let the guy know about it and he brought me another half rick…I guess he thought this country gal was raised in a barn…NOPE!
    I often wondered how many people he “slickered” with that trick! “Once burned, once learned!” so to speak! ha

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 26, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Are you sure someone wasn’t saying “rack” the wood instead of “rick” the wood? We generally would stack a “rick” of wood on our concrete porch in the winter. But we would “rack” our excess wood between two or more trees in the edge of the woods. Sometimes that rack of wood would be a couple of “cords” or maybe a “rick and a half”….The better half always cut the wood long enough to fit in our fireplace, woodstove and furnace approximately 18” to 2′ long which worked perfect…It’s a “booger” if one was a bit too long to angle into the stove…ha
    We never “racked” our wood on the porch, per say until we bought one of those steel metal racks…Only purpose for it was to keep a person that was not a good caretaker of the stack from causing an avalanche of wood that might roll down the porch….Why would it roll you say? Well, here at our place every branch was cut to length and not all required splitting….Ha…
    “Rick or Rack”…..”Stack or Pile” …one usually needs a cord or two for the severe winter here sometimes!
    Thanks Tipper, loved this post…..
    PS…maybe Deerhunter needs one of them over the ear phones like the “McDonalds” folks that take the orders at the window!…(and get it wrong most times! ha)

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    January 26, 2016 at 10:41 am

    When placing wood in a rick
    It measures four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long (4 ft. x 4 ft. x 8 ft.) and has a volume of 128 cubic feet. The amount of solid wood in a cord varies depending on the size of the pieces, but for firewood it averages about 85 cubic feet.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    January 26, 2016 at 10:23 am

    When I was a kid we played on giant piles of hay that we called “hay ricks”.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    January 26, 2016 at 9:55 am

    My Daddy, a neat-arranger person, did not allow us kids when we were “ricking up” the wood he split, to stack it “just any old way.” He liked neatness, even in the woodpile, and especially when we stacked it on the porch when a cold, cold spell, or snow, was expected. Yes, I know about Ricking Wood; but not so much, as Don Casada writes, about how much a “rick” is when buying it (or even selling it). We didn’t deal much in buying and selling wood when I was young. We went out and cut our own from our forests on our land.

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    January 26, 2016 at 9:49 am

    That all sounds good! But I would be a feared of those bugs in the basement.
    One other point I hate to make about firewood – that is carrying the wood in so my mama could cook. That was my job and I did not like it a bit! I decided I would just renege. Well that did not set well with my mama! So we had our daily routine of me carrying in ONE stick of stove wood and her threatening to whip me. Then as this routine continued, of course she carried out her threat and I would finally get the job done.
    Don’t know how she ever put up with me! So many times in my young life my daddy said, “Child you are an awful lot like your mama!
    Cheers on a rainy day in Tennessee!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 26, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Your example shows the way the same word is used as both a noun and a verb. If my memory is working correctly, I mostly heard ‘rick’ growing up but it has been supplanted by ‘stack’. Too bad.
    In Colonial American a ‘corder’ was a person who checked to ensure that wood ricks were cords; that is, 8 feet long, 4 feet high and 4 feet deep or the equivalent. Seems it came to be in towns on the coast that had a firewood trade that needed some regulation. Just to keep things interesting though, a corder could also be a person who handmade fiber cords, as in string. Corder is my wife’s family name but which it refers to is unknown.
    I’m still resisting cell phones……

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    January 26, 2016 at 9:15 am

    I always heard the term rick applied to a measure of cut wood, but never knew how much it was, except that it was less than a cord, which I also never knew how much THAT was either!

  • Reply
    January 26, 2016 at 9:14 am

    I’ve ricked a few tons of wood in my lifetime. We always burned coal when I was growing up so ricking wood wasn’t learned until later in life. Ever hear the joke about the country boy at a job interview telling about his previous employment as a pilot? Yep, boss chops it and I pile it.

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    January 26, 2016 at 9:14 am

    I have not heard of ricking. Sounds like a good idea to rick your wood in the basement though, will keep it dry and away from creepy crawly critters.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    January 26, 2016 at 8:34 am

    On the new Dwight Yoakum CD, he sings about ricks of wood. It was the first time I’d heard the term used as a noun. As a kid, though, I ricked a mess of wood.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 26, 2016 at 8:01 am

    This is the time of year for a roaring fire to stay nice and toasty. I might just come by ans soak up a bit of the warmth. A fire is wonderful warm heat though dry, as don mentioned.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 26, 2016 at 7:17 am

    I’m sure you know a rick is also a pseudo-measure of wood. Back when I was a young sprout with more energy than brains (less of both now, it seems), I had access to trees cut beneath a power line not far from the house. I cut and split way more than we could use, so decided to sell some . I looked at ads in the paper to see what the going price was, and found that a few folks sold by the rick and by the pickup truck load (most by the honest half cord).
    Both of the first two measures are indefinite; a rick is a stacked 4×8 on the face, but no specification as to depth. How big is a pickup truck load? Who knows – depends on bed size and whether its stacked or thrown in. So you have to figure that someone selling by the truckload or the rick bears watching.
    While you might bring a bug or two which had taken shelter between the wood and bark, what the modern-day Natty Bumppo is doing – stacking the wood in the basement with the stove does two good things: 1) adds some moisture to the air and 2) dries the wood out for burning.

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