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Firewood on Mad Tom Farm was a year-round proposition. Strong winds, ice and summer storms all brought down branches, sometimes whole trees, for Maurice to haul off to the woodshed and turn into tidy stacks of logs waiting to be split. The woodshed was a place he liked, tucked as it was into the stone foundation under the smaller barn. He stored uncut logs in the closed end of this tidy undercroft, while the other end, open to the air but out of the wind, was divided into three big bays. The big, old John Deere, bought new in 1949 and still in occasional use, inhabited the far bay, and the second bay he kept clear for various vehicular rejuvenations. The final bay, the one connected directly to the woodshed, was where he cut the wood. This bay, utterly satisfying to Maurice in its muscular simplicity of function and form, was a world unto itself, a sanctuary of common sense and elbow grease, terra firma amidst the shifting sands of farm affairs. Two gigantic rounds of wood, each as wide as a tractor tire, presided with indomitable patience over a conservative concrete floor. His favorite axe, sharpened to a shine, rested upright by the blade in one, next to several iron wedges lined up neatly by size. Spare axes leaned in the corner where rough wood met stone and a well-used broom stood at attention by the door. The second round of wood was the chopping block itself, its scarred and chinked surface a silent testimony to duty.

Samson ran ahead and assumed his accustomed perch on a smaller stump lower to the ground, carefully placed for just that purpose. Almost immediately he jumped back down and circled the two big rounds, sniffing with anxious agitation, unable to pinpoint the source of his discontent. Maurice, striding around the corner and into the bay knew at once: his favorite axe was missing from the block. With a grunt of concern, he poked around the neat piles of wood, puzzlement growing as places to look diminished.

"Hunh," he said out loud and stared blankly at the cobweb-covered beams. Samson came over and sat on his boot. No one on Mad Tom Farm would ever use an axe. Certainly not the women. And not the boys. Not Felix either. In Maurice's experience, musicians didn't chop wood. No, Felix might sing about chopping wood, but he'd never actually chop it. His hands were too soft. Joe might get it in his head to give it a go but he was pretty good about returning the tools. A puzzle.

"Hunh," he said again, registering Samson's tentative wag, "That's why we keep the old ones I guess."

He wove his way out through the piles of wood, grabbed an old axe with a rusty blade and sat on the block to sharpen it.

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