Jeffrey Snowbarger

Winter on the Choppings

Snap Jaw Small had a tavern act, a foolproof way to win free shots of squirrel whiskey. Think of anything alive—frogs, snakes, snow-white weasels—if it fit in Snap Jaw’s mouth, he’d chewed the head off one. He saved earnings that way. He mailed his wife bolts of linen and sacks of salt. He sent her letters about how cold it was among the choppings. How soon the rivers would rise and the logs would start running. How he’d be home by the time the oaks leafed out.

But Snap Jaw made a misstep in camp one night. He bit the head off Old Dudley’s pet owl. This owl had the most beautiful lay of feathers—flecks of deep black spotting the purest white you’ve ever seen. It was like the everlong beard of God Himself. Dudley cradled his bird ‘till it flapped its last then went at Snap Jaw’s ankles with a spade. After Snap Jaw skipped into the moonlit slash, we never saw trace more of the fella. Word swung round that he’d hired on with a lousy camp south of Spooner. One weekend he went knuckles with a shanty boy out of Hayward. The bout closed with poor Snap Jaw getting his own nose nibbled off for a change.

“He was one dumb kraut,” I said to Muscle Head Moe. Every day we swapped stories, sang all the ones we knew.

“No dumber than any other,” said Moe, referring to Snap Jaw. “I can’t spell justice, but I know it when I hear it.”

“Now, if that ain’t the truth.”

We were skidders then, Moe and me . . .

For the month of June, Everyday Genius has become a print journal. The 110-page magazine features work from 21 writers and four artists. Full content will be made available online in June 2013; until then, copies can be purchased with the link above. As always, comments are welcome in the box below.

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