6 March 1852

by layman k

Old Mr. Joe Hosmer chopping wood at his door. He is full of meat. Had a crack with him. I told him I was studying lichens, pointing to his wood. He thought I meant the wood itself. Well, he supposed he’d had more to do with wood than I had. “Now,” said he, ” there are two kinds of white oak. Most people wouldn’t notice it. When I ‘ve been chopping, say along in March, after the sap begins to start, I’ll sometimes come to an oak that will color my axe steel-blue like a sword-blade. Well, that oak is fine-grained and heavier than the common, and I call it blue white oak, for no other blues my axe so. Then there are two kinds of black oak, or yellow-bark. One is the mean black oak, or bastard. Then there’s a kind of red oak smells like urine three or four days old.”  It was really respectable in him that he avoided using the vulgar name of this oak. In an old man like him itwas a true delicacy.

from the journals of Henry David Thoreau