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Norwegians are my kind of people

March 06, 2013|By TIM ROWLAND | timr@herald-mail.com
  • Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

Ten years ago I was sitting in a hut in a remote outpost in Norway with a dozen members of my New York-based mountaineering club and a beyond-stoic Norwegian guide by the name of Bjorn.

The majority of the club members on that particular evening had decided that in order to “liven things up” in the great frozen North, a wild and rollicking game of charades was in order.

As they screamed, laughed, hooted, howled, danced and gesticulated the night away, Bjorn sat in the back of the dining room with a growing look of horror on his face.

Finally, when he could stand it no more, Bjorn leaned over to me and, with more emotion than he showed at any other point in the two-week trek, shook his head slightly and said, “We would never do this.”

“We,” meaning those native to Norway, where most any overt public demonstration is about as welcome as a lap dance at a funeral.

Of course you will notice that I was sitting right there in the back of the room with Bjorn, and I remember thinking at the time that I might have made a good Norwegian.

All the more so when I saw a news item on what passes for reality television in Norway — more specifically, a 12-hour show about ... wait for it ... firewood.

A fraction of a second after thinking to myself, “Oh wow, I’d watch that!” it dawned on me that the news item was presented in a way that was not entirely positive for Norway.

And I quote from Mike Argento’s column in the York (Pa.) Daily Record:

“If this were some kind of polite National Geographic documentary, it would begin with the narrator intoning, ‘Norway is a land of contrasts.’ But it isn’t, so it begins with this: Norway is bat-guano crazy.”

News stories had all the requisite jokes: “Norweigans split down the middle on stacking firewood;” “We’ve logged another complaint,” and such. I would point out that we have a lot of room to talk, seeing as how we will generate entire television series around Dumpster diving.

But yes, I suppose the rest of the world probably find the whole idea of a firewood show to be ridiculous. Which makes me feel even more insecure.

For whatever reason, I’m never happier than when I’m splitting firewood. And not with one of those sissy gasoline-powered hydraulic splitters, either. I’m talking a full 8-pound, drop-forged splitting maul with a hickory handle, and maybe even the occasional — be still my beating heart — iron wedge.

Other dads leave their kids a favored baseball glove, a set of silver pens, or maybe even a vintage automobile. My dad left me an ax. Well, he didn’t really leave it to me, but I took it when he grew too old to fell oaks. And I immediately splintered the handle, which sort of explained why he didn’t want to leave it to me in the first place.

But apparently this is normal in Norway. According to the New York Times, 20 percent of all Norwegians stayed up all night to watch the firewood show, which included a 12-hour fireplace cam. Folks made impassioned pleas on Facebook about the best spots to lay on new logs. And a huge debate erupted over whether firewood should be stacked bark up or bark down.

These are my kind of people.

And my animals think so too. The Bulldog named Hannah must be filled with Prestone because she will lie two inches in front of the fireplace for hours without boiling over. And the only way I can keep the Siamese cat Juliet from sitting on my desk and attacking my cursor is to build a fire, which she will sit and stare at for hours. A good Norwegian if ever there was.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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