Fat Pine is one of the best fire starters known to man or woman! But I wonder if the guy who was selling this wood last Saturday knew what he had. It was pine because he tempted me into smelling it. There is no mistaking the scent and the touch and feel of pine resin. Some people in different states may say “Fat Wood,” but in Georgia and especially south Georgia, it’s “Fat Pine.”
Stories and folk lore abound about the use of this wood to start a fire. It will flat out burn by itself, like a candle! Georgia is known for its many pine trees—long and short needle so you can imagine that we have lots of “fat pine.” While I don’t have to worry about wood fires now that I have gas logs in my fireplace, I remember a time when would keep a small box of the stuff next to the fire place just to tell people that I have it! I prized the fact that it was there and most of the time only available in the country. It’s certainly not a city stable!
Years ago, my long distant mentor novelist Eugenia Price wrote about the first time she used fat pine while renting a cottage on St. Simons Island. The winter had turned cold and winds off the Atlantic Ocean were brutal.
“I ‘managed’ a load of wood from Johnnie Golden, a tall, spare, courteous black man who was to become far more important in my life than I dreamed possible that late afternoon when he dumped the overwhelmingly large heavy oak logs at my door. (In Chicago my grate only took light 12-inch birch logs.)
“‘I bought some fat pine too,’ he said proudly. ‘You didn’t order any, but there’s no way to start that oak without it.’
“‘Fat pine?’ I asked.
“‘Fat pine.’ Mr. Golden’s nod had authority. ‘Full of resin. Good oak’s a little green. No other way to make it burn.’ He held out a sticky heavy splinter of pine. ‘Here. Smell it.’
“I did and it’s quite possible that was the exact moment when, unknown even to me, I became a Georgian.” And so it goes with the stories and the romance of using “fat pine” to start our fires.