Performer: Led Zeppelin
Songwriter: Willie Dixon
Original Release: Led Zeppelin
Definitive Version: Coda, 1982. It’s live and superheavy, just the way I like my Zeppelin.
I was listening to Led Zeppelin a lot in the fall of 1990 thanks to the release of the Box Set when I accompanied Dad and my grandfather on a working trip to Torch Lake in October. Dad was going to start building his new cottage (read: summer home) on a part of the family compound, and he wanted to start cutting down trees in preparation for the builders to come the next month.
I agreed to help out. I thought it would be a good thing to do—be a part of three generations of Christensens clearing the land. And they needed someone with young muscles who could haul stuff around.
They came up from Columbus and picked me up in Grand Blanc Friday night and we were off. We stayed in the Little House, which was, at the time, the only of the three houses that had a furnace and was equipped to handle winter—or fall—guests.
Saturday morning came early, but fortunately I was on an early-morning schedule myself, so I had no problem getting up more or less at the crack of dawn. I suppose it was to show that I could willingly handle my share of the load and curry favor with the two family patriarchs of whom my reputation was not always spotless in that regard, but I made it a point to outwork both of them and not stop for any reason unless they did first.
Dad would do most of the main cutting; my grandfather and I would handle the small cutting; and I did the hauling. We had a small open-sided trailer that we hitched to the lake Jeep. After we piled the wood so high, it would be off to the burn pile in the field across the street, which would be torched the next year before the start of the summer season.
I had no problem in keeping up a heavy work pace the whole day, which lasted until it started to get dark about 6 or so, but I was wiped out and collapsed in an exhausted heap on the couch in the living room area. (The only closed off rooms were the two bedrooms in the back and the bathroom.)
Fortunately, this was during the World Series, and my beloved Reds were going after an improbable title against the heavily favored defending champion Oakland A’s. All of the pundits said beforehand it would be a sweep. It turns out they were right, of course: The Reds swept them in four straight.
I watched the Reds pull off two improbable wins to start the Series at home in Grand Blanc, and Game 3 was Saturday night. I wasn’t planning to do anything else anyway, so it didn’t matter that I couldn’t physically move from the couch.
That first day, we worked on top of the hill by the street, which was almost entirely hard-wood trees. The easier stuff—the soft firs—were at the bottom of the hill closer to the lake and would go down as smooth as grass the next day, so Saturday was the tougher day, thank goodness.
One tree that came down early was a big beech tree that stood in the middle of where the driveway was going to run. Years before that, when it stood secluded in the middle of the woods, a young lad had carved the initials of himself and his paramour into the tough gray skin of the beech tree.
I took note of how the tree attempted to heal the scars over the years and how the initials now protruded dark and ugly—to the point where the initials were almost unreadable. Of course, I knew what they were—mine and Beth’s. And I didn’t feel anything, either melancholy or satisfaction when the tree feel and the initials went trucked to the burn pile. I could quit her after all.