Shirley Mountains

Dad & Bob Cutting LogsWith the recent storm, and all the broken trees in the area, there was a lot of clean up to do. In fact, there still is a lot of clean up to do, but neighbor has helped neighbor, and families have helped families. Many have even helped people they didn’t know. The community rallied together, and cleaned up the parks, cemeteries, and streets. It was an amazing show of community and the human spirit, but there was one person that I missed very much at that time…my father-in-law.

In the early years of my marriage to Bob, we went with his dad to the Shirley Mountains to cut firewood. This event wasn’t a planned firewood cutting event, but it did end up putting a lot of firewood into the woodpiles of anyone who had a fireplace or wood stove. The work reminded me of those trips we took to the Shirley Mountains. My father-in-law knew Dad with a Chain Sawexactly what he was doing, and we were his laborers. It was a learning experience to be sure. He was always so capable.

Of course, in those later years, he could not have done the work of cutting down those fallen trees, and he would not have been there in any capacity, except to watch…or supervise. While we worked to cut down broken trees and branches, it occurred to me just how much I had learned from him all those years ago in the Shirley Mountains. We knew what needed to be done, and we did it. My job wasn’t any different than it was back then, but Bob was in charge now. He had made the transformation from being the son, learning the ropes, to the person in charge of the operation. Of course, that transformation had taken place a long time ago, but because of the storm, and the forest like mountain of fallen and broken trees, it hit me at this particular time, and not on the other times that Tree ChairBob has cut up firewood in the past.

The lessons we have learned from our parents will always be with us. We may not see them as an important lesson at the time, but down the road…when we need the information that was given to us…that lesson comes back to us and shows us the things we need to know to help us in the situation at hand. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t appreciate the valuable lesson that was taught, until the teacher is gone, and we can’t even thank them. Then, all that is left is a warm feeling in our hearts, and a lump in our throats,  because our parents, and even in-laws, really did prepare us for life. 

July 4, 1973Most people think of the 4th of July as a hot, mid-summer holiday to celebrate our independence, and they would normally be right…but not always. In Wyoming, and I’m sure there are a few other places as well, there are times when the 4th of July can be cold. We don’t get that too much, but we do on occasion. The year my oldest daughter, Corrie was born, I recall that it snowed on the 4th, and I found myself thinking, “How can this be happening?” Another year that saw snow on the 4th of July was 1973, which was almost 2 years before I married Bob, so I didn’t know his family then.

Apparently, they decided to take a trip up into the Shirley Mountains that day, and were surprised to find snow…quite a bit, in fact. It was obvious to me that they were unprepared for what they found in the Shirleys that morning, because the kids had on shorts and even, bathing suits. It would seem that it had been pretty hot, so when they came across that snow, everyone wanted the chance to really cool off. Everyone started dancing around on the snow… some of them, barefoot!! They were out there on the snow…dancing!! It made me think of the Ice Capades…or in this case, the Summer Ice Capades!!

They had such a good time, and I’ll bet they didn’t even notice, if their feet got cold. Or maybe they didn’t. The day doesn’t exactly look like it was cold, but it must have been, Summer Ice Capadessince there was still snow on the 4th of July. I know that it felt cold on July 4, 1975, when it snowed 4 days after Corrie was born, but maybe this snow simply hadn’t melted yet. That would indicate a colder summer, but not necessarily as cold as it was two years later.

Whatever the case, a surprise snow bank brought a cool down moment to a summer day. Sometimes, it’s the little things, things you would never expect, that end up being fun. And sometimes, when you can let go of the everyday things and see the unusual, and allow yourself to be goofy…you just might find yourself having a really great time. Happy Independence Day everyone!!!


A number of years ago, 1979 to be exact, when Bob’s parents were still living out in the country, the guys had a permit to cut down some dead trees in the Shirley Mountains. A bunch of us made several trips up and spent the day cutting and loading those trees onto the flatbed trailer my father-in-law owned. It was always a project that took the whole day, and plenty of help. We came back with several good sized loads of wood. Then came the real work. Cutting all that wood into usable sizes to burn in our wood stoves took many days.

At that time, my father-in-law had a big buzz saw to cut the wood with. It took two people to get the wood on the table that ran the log to the saw. One day, Bob and his dad were working on cutting the wood, and since we lived on the same property at the time, because our land wasn’t ready to move onto yet, our kids were there too. They loved being around all the activity that went on at their grandparent’s house. From raising a couple of cows to cutting wood, there was always something going on.

Corrie had come down to the wood pile to watch the cutting process…or maybe to be the supervisor. It was really the only job a little girl of 4 years could do, so they set her up on one of the bigger logs that had been cut, and she supervised the whole project for quite a while. I’m quite sure that in between all the sawing, Corrie probably talked the guys’ ears off too, if I know my girl. Corrie has always been an organizer…even as a little girl, when she tried to straighten a neighbor’s counter up, because it was a little unorganized. As a supervisor, Corrie was simply in her element.

Of course, at 4 years old, Corrie got bored with the work world, and decided that it was time for a break. That happened about the time that the cat, Dusty showed up and seemed to need a little bit of attention. Corrie decided that she would have to be the one to entertain Dusty and keep her out of trouble, because as we all know, cats tend to get in the way of the work. They always want to rub up against you, and that simply won’t do when the men are trying to cut wood. Dusty could be in real danger of getting stepped on. Eventually, Corrie would go back to her supervisory job, but only when Dusty decided that it was time to go find something to eat, and a nice shady place to nap.

In the early years of our marriage, Bob and I went with my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and assorted friends to the Shirley Mountains to get wood to burn for heating their house. We would spend the day hauling log after log to the trailer we had brought. By lunchtime, I was starving!! Carrying those big logs was hard work, but it was beautiful up there in the mountains.

My father-in-law wanted to burn wood as much as possible to save money on heating bills. Many people were turning to wood burning stoves to cut costs, and the BLM was letting people buy permits to clear the dead fall for the mountains to cut down on the fire hazard up there.

We went up several weekends, and brought back lots of wood. Then began the work of cutting and splitting the wood. We had quite a production going. The guys had a rhythm going. They cut the logs into pieces the right length, then they went to the splitter, and were tossed onto the woodpile. Even the little kids pitched in.They thought they were so grown up, when we allowed them to help stack the wood.

Over the next few years, the woodpile would get to be so huge that it looked higher than the house. We were all shocked at what we had. You could see it from a long way off. One thing was for sure…my father-in-law had enough wood to heat his house for some time to come. People don’t go out and haul their own wood much anymore, or maybe I’m just out of the loop, but it was a time I will always remember…because it was such a pleasant time.

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