How Did the Pitsaw Get Its Name?

    One possibility:  Like riverboat gamblers, old time woodwrights never knew just when an emergency would crop up and they'd need a small caliber saw in a big hurry to rip some obstreperous log into lumber for a picture frame, so they kept a small folding saw in a leather holster under the left arm.
    Another:  Once in the winter of 1899, my Great Grandpa worked in a log camp when a huge snowstorm cut them off from town. This was no hardship because they had plenty of canned goods and drystores and if they needed meat they could run a deer to exhaustion, or climb a tree and lasso some geese migrating South.
    Flour was another matter. The cookshack was out. A Squarehead logger nearly fainted in mid-morning if he didn't get his foot high stack of pancakes for breakfast. The cook tried a couple of substitutes. He tried sawdust, and although the crew couldn't tell the difference, sawdust pancakes just didn't have the food value. He ground beans for flour, but the gaseous byproducts burnt up the logger's shirttails if they were working upwind of the warming fires they built out in the woods.
    The cook found a couple big sacks of cherry pits in the bookkeeper's office. These pits were left over from a couple of years worth of canned cherry pies served after supper. At dinner he crew spit them out on the floor and the swamper swept them up every night. The bookkeeper saved them because he never threw anything away. "Never know when you might need a sack of cherry pits."
    Great Grandpa stopped for coffee at the cookshack after visiting the superintendent who admonished him for carelessness: a tree had fallen on him, hitting him in the head and thereby damaging a substantial portion of a twelve foot diameter sawlog. There he found the cook cracking cherry pits with a nutcracker and cussing bad enough to shrivel the glass in the windows, for the pits were tiny and hard and had only a little meat in them. One thing led to another until Great Grandpa got out his clasp knife and whittled a machine out of stove wood and a freshly-sharpened, sixteen-foot falling saw (the smallest on hand). The cook pedaled it like a sewing machine and sawed the shells off enough cherry pits to grind for flour.
     Great Grandpa was the hero at a breakfast of delicious pancakes the next morning, but the bookkeeper found fault. There would have been less wastage had Great Grandpa built the pitsaw to flitch-saw the cherry pits instead of quartersawing them.And that's the truth about pitsaws. Take your choice.

. . . Forrest Addy





© 1999 by Forrest Addy. All rights reserved.
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