Appalachia Heritage

Papaw’s Chainsaw

Course the bees


Papaw Wade (Pap’s father) was a wood cutter-and I’m not saying that lightly-he lived to cut wood-and cutting wood made his living. When he started out he was old school-using a cross cut saw to bring down timber.

Once those new fangled contraptions called chainsaws made their way into the mountains everyone could see the ease and speed at which you could cut wood with them. But seeing the writing on the wall never makes it any easier to come up with the money it takes to buy an easier way of life.

Papaw and Virgil Dockey had been cutting pine wood with a cross cut saw together. As they studied and figured on the issue at hand-whether to buy a chainsaw or not-they came to the conclusion that buying one would not only make their livelihood easier-it would allow them to make a bigger profit as well. In the end, the two decided they’d split the cost and buy a chainsaw.

Pap said talk of the chainsaw and what it meant-kept both families at a heightened state of excitement-especially the wives.

Finally the day of the big purchase arrived. Papaw and Virgil pledged $200 for the saw at the old Smith Store and then brought it home to show the children and wives. Virgil took it home with him and put it on the front porch in anticipation of all the work that would be accomplished on the coming day.

During the night a thunderstorm blew up and as bad luck would have it-lighting struck the chainsaw-and literally blew it to pieces.

The following day Virgil came into Papaw’s yard hanging his head saying “we’re ruin’t we’re ruin’t.” Pap said you never saw such a sad bunch of folks-even the children recognized the devastation of loosing the chainsaw that was bought on time-knowing payment would still be required no matter that Mother Nature had played a cruel trick on them.

After much hand wringing Papaw and Virgil decided there was only one thing left to do-take the saw back and see if they could at least sell it back to Smiths for parts.

Oh happy day! When they arrived at the store they discovered they had unknowingly bought insurance along with the credit plan. They picked up a new saw and headed for home.

Pap said the families rejoiced and everyone made sure the chainsaw was never left outside at night again.


Papaw Wade has been gone for close to 20 years. Every time I smell sawdust-or fresh cut wood I think of him-those were his smells. It always makes me feel like-if I turn around quick enough I’ll see him standing there in his overalls-with his hat brim turned straight up and his eyes twinkling at me.



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  • Reply
    March 1, 2013 at 2:23 pm


  • Reply
    February 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Nice ending to the story.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    February 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

    That’s a good story Tipper! I can just see Virgil saying “we’re ruin’t”! And like somebody else said, to fully understand the desperation you would have to be able to understand how hard that extra payment would be to make with no saw to help make it. This is one for the “collection” whenever you get around to publishing it!

  • Reply
    February 21, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I love this story! Isn’t it amazing how the scent of something can bring back such intense memories? Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    February 20, 2011 at 12:45 am

    My brothers and my father cut trees on our farm back in the forties as they cleared new ground. My brothers still tell of the hard work of using a cross cut saw all day.
    I love the story, Tipper. You say so much in a few words. Mark of a good writer.

  • Reply
    grannis little corner
    February 19, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Memories, so wonderful to be able to pull them at will, what a fresher we have in our memories. There’s just something about smells and what they conjure up for us. While snuggling in bed with my small granddaughter, she’s in my arms, and I’m aware that she’s slowly taking in deep breaths. I ask, what are you smelling?, she replys, your granni smell. To this day, she still loves this granni’s smell, and she’s twenty two.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Love this!!!
    Yay that they had the insurance. I can only imagine the happiness!
    All kinds of things like smells remind me of people in my past. Have you heard that new country song….”I Hear Voices”?
    I definitely hear voices!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 19, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Great story from times gone by. Thanks Tipper.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    February 19, 2011 at 9:00 am

    It is interesting how the sense of smell can have such a strong connection to time, place, people, and circumstances.
    I can’t say that I enjoy the smell of a 2-cycle fuel mix exhaust either in the air or my clothes, but it, like sweat, has an honest, hard-earned odor. But the smell of freshly split wood – especially red oak – now that is a pure delight.
    On the track of pleasant smells – every time I smell butterfly flower or mint, my mind goes back to days spent at Grandma and Grandpa Casada’s house during the summer.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Poor? No. This is a rich slice of life you have shared, and so vividly! I couldn’t bear the thought they would have to pay on the saw while cutting with the crosscut; then elated by the joyful ending for them all. Thank you, Tipper.

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson (USA)
    February 18, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I am glad they had that insurance. I love the practical decision-making behind the decision.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Papaws are a special breed of men.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 18, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    This kind of story is only one of the many reasons I keep coming back to Blind Pig! I can only imagine what a disaster this would be for someone who is struggling to make an honest living to support a family.
    Thank you for sharing this, Tipper!

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Miss Tipper,
    Keep this up and you will end up working for for one of those big New York publishing companies! What a story!!!! When you’re good, you’re good. I could go on and on about this story but, it would be “Preaching to the choir” so I’ll stop now.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    That truly is an honorble trait to have. Wood cutting is actually an art to master. It takes a bit to lay a tree right where you want it to go.

  • Reply
    Nancy @ A Rural Journal
    February 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Tipper, listening to the music in the background and reading your story — took me to where you were — looking for Pawpaw out of the corner of your eye. 🙂

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 11:40 am

    That was a nice story of old times. I laughed out loud! And I
    can remember when we got our first
    chainsaw, a David-Bradley from Sears. Daddy and my older brothers
    did all the cutting and it was me
    and my closest brother’s job to
    ballhoot the cuts off the mountain
    into a clearing where they were to
    be busted. Talk about a family
    outing, that was fun. And at the
    end of the day mama had the biggest supper you ever saw just
    waiting for us…Ken

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 11:40 am

    A sweet story indeed. I know what it means to look for those you have missed for so many years. My own father gone for twenty-nine years come the end of this month, longer than I knew him, and I still have things I think to share with him or sights and smells that make me think he is right at my elbow.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 11:37 am

    oh Wow and thanks be to God! what a wonderful story, tipper!

  • Reply
    Ron Corley
    February 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Mornin’ Tipper,
    Again, such a wonderful story you have shared with all of us … and indeed a wonderful memory for you. Nowadays, about the only place you still see these old crosscut saws, are decorating the inside of Cracker Barrel restaurants. There’s a lot of history to take in when your dining there. Have a great day, and may God richly bless you.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Great story! My heart skipped a beat and my jaw dropped when I read about the lightening strike! Only those of us who have lived hand-to-mouth could realize how devastating that might have been. Thank goodness for that insurance, it must have felt like a reprieve!
    I love the picture of Papaw Wade, what a sturdy, handsome man – they don’t make men like that any more – and the background scenery is breathtaking!

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    February 18, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Isn’t it wonderful how smells can trigger memory? Loved the story.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 8:57 am

    tipper I love this story, every word of it. made me smile and I also like the photo of your pap. takes me back in time just looking at him. great post

  • Reply
    Susan L
    February 18, 2011 at 8:52 am

    That was a lovely post.I miss both my Gandpa and Pawpaw terriby sometimes and this made me smile and remember how they ised to smell. Thank for starting my day out smiling.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Glad their story had a happy ending. Cutting wood was a hard way of life remembering back to my childhood when Daddy and uncles did that for a living.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    February 18, 2011 at 8:09 am

    What a wonderful story! Two men, friends, sticking together in a bad blame..just finding a solution to the problem…and getting on with their work…wonderful!
    Something I have not heard in some time, “after much hand wringing”…My Grandmother and eventually my Mother used to use that term when someone was extremely worried..
    “She wrung her hands until I thought they would fall off” or “Quit wringing your hands, it won’t do no good!”…LOL
    Timber cutting is a hard way to make a living…When the loggers cut our pines, I would listen to the sound at various stages of the cutting of the tree. The saw would slow, a few seconds would pass and a large swishing sound could be heard. Then a loud crack and more swishing as it fell, then a “thump” to end all “thumps”..I could feel the ground shake..A slight cheer was heard, I guess as it fell where they wanted it to fall, and then the sound of the increasing speed of the chainsaw on to the next pine…
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Logging is in my husband’s family’s blood too. They all followed the lumbering north up the west side of Michigan, working in the woods in the winter and farming in the summer. A crosscut saw that he used with his father is hanging on the garage wall at his mother’s house, one of these days, it will be coming home with us. A memory of where we came from, and how it used to be.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 6:43 am

    That was a great story Tipper. Having that insurance sure made things better! Glad they got a new saw.

  • Reply
    Jo Reece-Flowers
    February 18, 2011 at 6:18 am

    I, too, grew up with the sweet smell of fresh cut wood and the song of the chain saw. I can still recognize the distinctive smells of some of the different trees. And remember the changes in sound as the saw meets different grains, knots, twists, and then resting. On the rare occassions that I catch the aroma or find a sprinkle of the sawdust, I close my eyes and step back briefly in time… appreciating the hard, physical labor of any man supporting his family. (just sign me homesick)

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