Sunday, March 14, 2021

Doc Maynard's Incredible Woodpile

Doc Maynard, one of Seattle's most beloved pioneers, spent much of 1851 chopping cord wood on Budd inlet in Olympia, Washington. The untouched forests of Puget Sound were filled with tall pine, cedar and fir trees suitable for the tallest mast on any ship, plus building materials for railroads, housing and construction were selling at a premium. The world market was hungry for timber and Doc needed the money. So he set to work in January, cutting and stacking two cords a day through August for a total of 400 cords.

As stated before, the trees were enormous. After sawing, wedging and chopping for nearly an hour, the giant's thunderous crash would beckon any man to do as the gentle doctor and celebrate with a hearty yell. Though most of the trees were bigger, the stump of one tree was exactly as wide across as Doc's outstretched arms - six feet. As he lay across the crosscut section, his fingertips just barely reached the edge at each side of the stump. How many spans of Doc's outstretched arms would it take to reach around the stump?

The answer is found in the relationship between the circumference and diameter of a circle. The ratio of a circle's circumference, the distance around the circle, relative to its diameter, the distance through or across the circle, which is very close to a ratio of 3.14. Doc would be able to reach around the tree and mark three full arm-spans, plus a small additional amount a little longer than his hand.

Today is March 14th, internationally celebrated as "Pi day". I hope you enjoyed this.


Based on endearing and entertaining Seattle history written by Bill Speidel.

Reference: Speidel, W., (1978) Doc Maynard - The Man Who Invented Seattle, Nettle Creek Publishing Co., ISBN: 0-914890-02-6