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Letter Re: A Firewood Sawing Reality Check

Dear Mr. Rawles:
As a devoted prepper, I have been trying to be diligent in practicing what I preach.  This past weekend was a bit of an eye-opener for me and should be for most of my fellow travelers.  In anticipation of future gas shortages and the impossibility of maintaining reasonable security while running a chain saw, I recently purchased a one-man, 36 inch, made in Germany, crosscut saw.   Saturday morning, I spent a couple of hours building a sawbuck.  Then the education began.  

At this point, I need to interject that I’ve been burning wood for the past 30 years and typically cut (chainsaw), split (hand maul) and stack 12-to-14 face cords of hardwood per year.  I’m in good shape and used to hard work.  In fact I also put a truckload of hay in the barn and went horseback riding before putting the new saw to work.   I went into the hedgerow next to my pasture and took out a fairly small ash tree and a section of a dead cherry tree with my trusty Stihl gas chain saw. 

I then cut them in sections which would yield three or four stove-length logs and sawed these lengths by hand.  After an hour, I had produced maybe three armloads of wood.  My arms were sore and my grip was shot.  I woke up pretty stiff on Sunday morning but finished sawing up my “pile” later that afternoon.  The soreness worked out and I felt fine on Monday.  I also found that if I cut every third log with my left hand that I could keep from over fatiguing my arms.  Still, it became abundantly clear that supplying my home with heat in this manner will occupy an hour a day year round! 

Sawing firewood, in addition to gardening, caring for animals, hauling water and providing security will be more physically taxing than most people can imagine.   I don’t find many truly committed preppers as it is, but of those that I have encountered (mostly in tactical weapons training), I’ve only met one or two that would be up to the physical rigor.  This is no joke.  I would estimate that not one percent of the general population is doing anything to prep for TEOTWAWKI [1] while maybe 10% of preppers are fit enough to see it through.  Gear and even knowledge will be of little use to the ones that collapse from exhaustion.  As Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”  That is truer for us than for the NFL players for whom he intended it. – F.M. in Western New York