Appalachian Life: Selling Firewood for Extra Income

Photo courtesy: inkknife_2000
Photo courtesy: inkknife_2000

His truck is a lot like the man he sees in the mirror each morning — dented, scratched, rugged and showing the signs of age much too soon.  Though he may walk with a crook in his back and his tailgate no longer latches, there should be no mistaken the fact that both the man and his trusted old truck are tougher than a pine knot.

All afternoon the man and his truck sit idly at a busy crossroad in his tiny unincorporated community that typically isn’t even graced with a map dot on most printed maps.

The bed of the truck is loaded down with firewood and a handwritten sign proclaims to all who pass by, “Firewood  $100 a load. Locust and Oak.”

The scene described above takes place all autumn and winter long throughout the hollers and backroads of Appalachia. It’s a scene that you could probably spot today in Sugar Grove, Virginia; Dingess, West Virginia; Chuckey, Tennessee; Hazard, Kentucky, or ten thousand other little mountain towns with funny names.

In a moment when he thinks not, however, a passing motorist stops by and after a little wrangling, the old pick up truck is fired up and in no time, the wood is sold and will soon be used in heating a stranger’s house.

The once weighted truck bed is given a temporary relief from its burden, but the time of resting for the hardworking country boy who now has an extra Benjamin Franklin in his pocket is over.

He will return to the edge of a wood where he’s been falling trees and pick back up where he left off — sawing, splitting, and loading firewood.

For the amount of labor involved, the arrangement hardly seems fair, but it’s a thankful man who gets access to such wood as the locust or oak.

In an ever uncertain economy that sees electricity rates skyrocketing and unstable oil prices, more and more Appalachian homeowners are resorting back to what was once believed to have been a dying pastime, heating with wood.

Ready to fill this newfound demand for weathered (dried out) woods, particularly oak or locust, are young fathers and homeowners of the mountains.

For many of these men, gas powered log splitters has helped make their jobs considerably easier, but make no mistake about it — falling trees, sawing them, splitting the logs and loading and unloading them isn’t a job for the faint hearted or lazy.

Thanks to Facebook groups, the days of sitting alongside the roadway waiting all afternoon for a taker may be drawing to a close, but the days of selling firewood don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

This article is to honor the men who are working to revive this once dying Appalachian tradition — and earn much needed cash for their families, honestly.

Like articles like this? Then you would love Appalachian Magazine’s Mountain Voice: 2017: A Collection of Memories, Histories, and Tall Tales of Appalachia! Click here to check out the book on Amazon!

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  1. I sold firewood while in college to raise extra money. Hard work. One customer was very particular about how the wood was stacked. Earned decent money.

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