The Vanishing Firewood
by Linda C Butler
Told by Charlie Vance
I had a house in Thicket Portage and in the summer months I worked in the general store while the owners went on holidays. I trapped in the winter months.
My neighbor, Bill Herman, who was on the CN Railway section crew, was transferred to The Pas. He was anxious to sell his house and although I didn’t need it, I paid him $500 for it, expecting to rent it or resell it later. Bill was a hard worker and he left several cords of firewood stacked by the building.
Sometime later, Tommy Singleton purchased the house from me. He agreed to pay $100 down and to make periodic payments. He made the payments for awhile and then stopped. He was in the store one day and I asked him why he was not making payments.
“I don’t like the way you treat me Charlie.”
“Why is that?”
“I bought the firewood with the house and you keep taking the wood back.”
“I haven’t taken your firewood. I just bought a saw with a gas motor for sawing wood so I no longer cut firewood by hand.”
“Well, if you aren’t taking the wood, then who is?”
We discussed the matter and decided that Tommy would come to my house that evening and we would watch.
We went into my shed and looked out a window. As darkness fell, old Mr. McIntyre walked up to the woodpile. The old man lived in a nearby shack and appeared to be out for an evening stroll, carrying his packsack on his back. Once at the woodpile, he removed the packsack, took a few pieces of firewood, put them into the sack, fastened the closure, lifted the sack to his back, then resumed his walk.
Tommy jumped up to run outside and would have called the man a thief, but I said, “No, there has to be another way.”
The next day I was again working in the store. The old men in the community came in every morning and sat on a bench inside the doorway. They would chat for awhile and then return home. McIntyre came in this morning and sat down as usual.
George LaBrant was sitting to one side and I started a conversation with him, speaking loudly enough for McIntyre to hear.
“Somebody has been stealing wood from the house that I sold to Tommy Singleton. I plan to find out who it is tonight as I’m going to put some dynamite caps in the woodpile.”
“That might hurt somebody.”
“No, the caps won’t harm anybody, but there will be fireworks and we’ll watch and find out who is taking the wood.” I then changed the subject and talked for another few minutes before I left the men.
That night I went to Tommy’s house and told him what had happened. We knew that McIntyre would be too frightened to take firewood again and our problem was solved.
Sometime later I mentioned to McIntyre that I had a saw with a gas motor and I could help him cut his firewood. We remained friends and he never knew that we had watched him steal Tommy’s firewood.
(c) Linda C Butler 2014