Ax is an odd word. It can be spelled with or without the "e" on the end. Ax. Axe. You get to choose. The word brings to mind splitting wood, as I did when a boy. It also brings to mind the meat cleaver we used at Massingill Meat Market to chop or split bone.
Among humans around the world, the ax is a tool and a weapon. Indigenous peoples throughout planet Earth have used the axe for millennia. From Boy Scouts, to roofers, to hunters, the ax is a handy sidekick for many aspects of life outside. How can you not love a hand axe that has a blade on one end and a hammer head on the other? Or how you can you not love the tomahawk , a weapon of renown?
There's a reality TV show called "Ax Men." I watched it for a while. You might think it would be an interesting look at how important the harvesting of trees is. Or the economic impact creating jobs and providing new places for agriculture or homes. Or the many uses of the lumber taken. You might think you'd learn interesting things about trees and how they grow, why they have rings, and why some rings are thick and others are not. You might think the wonderful world of forestry would be explored. But you would be wrong.
Allow me to summarize every episode of Ax Men. Two gruff, rarely washed guys on a mountain yell stupid things at each other and behave unsafely around heavy equipment until one of them almost gets badly hurt. The end.
East Texas IS the forest. Our trees mark this region. We have hills, but not very big ones. We have rivers, but not big ones like the Mississippi, or clear ones like the ones near mountain snow run off. We have trees! As far as the eye can see, in every direction. Sixty foot tall trees. Oaks, Maples, Pine. They rise above us like giants. These God given towers of timber surround us and envelope us. We breathe out carbon dioxide. They use it to give us oxygen. We have a symbiotic relationship with our trees. We breathe life into them, and they breathe life into us.
East Texas was built on timber. In the late 1800s, this region's economic base was often its lumber. Rivers were used to move lumber. Trains and wagons were, too. There were saw mills and small towns built around them. These saw mills were the center of a community, the economic bedrock of it. Mills equaled jobs, and jobs equaled family support.
Timber remains important to this region. We are fortunate to have a Texas Forestry Service that provides an important role in East Texas. We are blessed with continuing demand for our renewable resource, our trees. For sixty years I have seen trucks loaded with freshly cut timbers, on their way to a mill. The trucks and their trailers full of timbers look remarkably similar to how they appeared fifty years ago. In a world of many changes, the log truck has not changed much.
We are not always happy to be following a log truck up a hill, as they tend to slow down below the speed limit. But they are such an important natural asset to this region. Watching log trucks represents one of the experiences of my childhood which has remained largely unchanged. Day after day, they take logs from our forests and deliver them to market.
Forestry professionals work hard to keep our forests growing and producing. They breathe economic life into East Texas, now and well into our future. Thanks, foresters!
© 2014, Jim “Pappy” Moore,
All Rights Reserved.