A Pine Wood for the Front
And now it has happened. Their wood is being cut down. Every day trees fall, and by the end of each week the bare gap grows bigger. Yet no word of complaint has been heard. Forgotten are all extravagant threats, and those who were most emphatic go and watch the work of destruction. They see the trees which have been their pride and joy come crashing to the ground and feel the wind caused by their fall blow over their faces, and they are quite silent, they have given so much more than trees, and what is a wood compared with other sacrifices. It is enough to know the trees will go straight to France, and not so long after they have fallen their wood will make trench props and sleepers for those light railways just behind the front. These tall pines have been bought by the Government, and are being prepared for their work here on the spot.
On one side of the shed things still look primitive and natural. It is the south side, and the sun still shines on a. peaceful sylvan scene. Some of the trees of irregular growth arc still standing, and those felled lie about ” looking like-dead giants.” said a sentimentalist; but the practical person views them as live recruits waiting for the training which is to fit them to serve their country.
There is already the grim shadow of war over the other side of the shed, and it begins to look ugly and practical. There are big stacks of balks for trench props-and those of larger size for sleepers, and there are also symmetrical heaps of branches cut into regular lengths and thickness. These innocent-looking, loads are for the construction of wire entanglements. Close to the-saw itself is a high mound of sawdust, and even this is connected with the war, for it is sold to the Government for the making of pine dressings for the wounded.
When the tree is down, and its branches are lopped off, it is harnessed to Bessie and dragged to the shed. Bessie is the mare with an almost human intelligence. She studies her route, gauges distances, allowing for obstacles, and very rarely does she get hung up with her load. When, in spite of her care, this does happen she twists her head round as far as it will go to investigate, and then patiently waits for her driver’s help.
The character of the wood is changed, too, in these days of changes. It has lost much of its aloofness and, like society, become more democratic. The village children, who used only to play near the footpaths, now stray right into its heart. They come with empty bags, sacks and creaking perambulators, and they go away bearing heavy loads. Old village women, too, with backs bent to fit huge bundles come and carry away dead wood. It is the young and the old who come for this wreckage. With coal at its present price they are only too glad to be allowed this gleaning. Some of them are getting in a store, and these chips and bits of bark will be a help in the coming colder weather.