The Woodman

Once upon a time there was a fellow who made his living in Curry County by cheating others. They say he not only sold things that didn’t belong to him but he sold them twice and left the real owner and two purchasers to argue over it. He was clever and always claimed he had bought the items from another party. Catching him was not easy. But then one day he made a mistake and sold a boat to a fellow that had gone fishing in the boat with the real owner. When the new buyer asked his fishing partner why he had sold his boat the man said he had not sold the boat. The Sheriff came and put the con man in jail.

When the judge came to the county there was a trial and the man was convicted. On the day that sentence was to be passed the judge asked him if he had ever engaged in honest work. The man told the judge that he had been a woodcutter for quite a while but it was hard work.

It just so happened that in those days the Curry County courthouse was heated with wood. The county would buy a load of logs and have them delivered in back of the courthouse to be cut into lengths and stacked inside for the winter. The judge told the man he would make him a proposition. He was going to sentence him to one year in the county jail. However, if he wanted to saw the load of wood into blocks, split the blocks and stack them inside the courthouse he could be released early. The man said he would do it.

The load of logs arrived and the man eagerly set to work sawing the logs into blocks. He started at daylight and quit when it got dark. When he had the logs cut into blocks he started splitting the blocks into lengths. He started at daylight and quit when it got dark. Everyone that walked by commented on his long hard hours. Finally, he split and stacked the last block.

The next time the judge came to Curry County he inspected the wood and had the man brought to court. There he told the man that he, along with many others, including the Sheriff himself, was impressed with what he had done in so short a time. And, the judge added, he hoped that the man had learned the value of good honest labor. The man said he had. He thanked the judge for giving him the opportunity. The judge said he was ordering the Sheriff to release him that day and wished him well. Everyone in the courtroom shook his hand. He left town the next day.

Towards the end of September it started to get chilly and the janitor at the courthouse decided it was time to start up the wood furnace. Try as he might, he could not get the split wood into the fire box. Upon close examination it was determined that the prisoner had cut every block exactly 2″ too long . Mistake? Maybe not. …Bill Wallace