If you’ve never lived out in the woods you’ve missed out on falling trees. Yes, trees fall. They fall all by themselves, well, with Newton’s help in the way of gravity, and you would never suspect they fall with the frequency they do, given the slowness of their growth. Since I have lived here nearly ten years now, I’ve had four really big Oak trees die.
The first was a shock because it was so damn huge. I mean this thing was ginormous. It was also my first trip into taking down a dead tree of such magnitude without a professional. I had to rent a machine to get my high enough to reach the upper branches, had to get a friend crazy enough to help me yet sane enough to be of some help, had to get three different chainsaws, and had to have some luck in not killing myself. It took the better part of a day to get it all done but it taught us something about taking trees down, and it taught us something about ourselves, too.
Wait, that wasn’t the first tree to die. It was the second. I forgot about the first one because I didn’t take it down, and it wasn’t dead. It just broke in two and fell on my house. I came home one day and there was this tree in my house. It was a little disconcerting because I didn’t remember leaving a tree there. The tree was perfectly healthy in every regard; the trunk was solid, the limbs full of green leaves, and the wood was healthy and unrotted. I mean, other than the fact it was in my house, it was the very picture of arboreal health. It left a hole the size of a Volkswagen in my roof, and a bigger hole in my heart.
Tropical Storm Fay dropped a tree on my shed, and I had to rent out a teenager to help cut it up. The young man did a great job, despite his mother’s contentions that he was lazy and not worth my trouble in hiring. I lived through that once myself, and there is a difference between doing something for your parents and doing something with someone else. It was good to have good help, and in the end I wound up defending him to his mother, and she didn’t like it a bit. I’ll never understand the need some parents have to think the worse of those they’ve brought into this world.
Last year I finally accepted the idea the Oak in my front yard was irrevocably dead. It had been in a state of decline since I got here. It had shed a few limbs here and there but this time the top part had died and it was hanging over the front yard like a gallows. The woodpeckers had come and gone in the upper branch and honestly, pure Oaken determination is all that held the damn thing up. Fay had stripped some of the lower branches off earlier, and the guy who cut it down for me asked me why I had hung on for so long. He had heard the same answer before, but I think he just liked the idea of people loving trees. An odd sentiment for someone who took them down for a living, but you have to understand trees to know enough to take one apart.
This is the first time I have ever paid anyone to take a tree down for me. One of the reasons was there was a very large limb hanging over part of the house. Another reason was for what it would take to rent the equipment to get up high I could hire someone to do it. This wasn’t true a few years ago but times have changed and people are looking for work for the sake of working. People will do work and make just enough profit to cover their payroll and costs just to keep working, and I suspect this was the case here. I paid five hundred dollars to have them drop the tree and cut it up. But let’s face it; part of me paying to have it done was also based on the fact that I’m getting older and the tree was a little bigger than I needed to tackle.
Yesterday, after lunch, I was trying to decide if I wanted to go rake leaves when I heard a weird “thump”. The dogs reacted for just a moment then they let it pass, and because they did, I did too. How long have human been doing this? The canids are calm so we humans relax. We trust to them our eyes, our ears, and our very lives, and how long how we have the luxury of doing this? But because they didn’t run outside to investigate neither did I. When I did go out to rake the leaves there was a smallish Oak tree lying in the back of the yard, he’s dead Jim.
Trees die. You know you’ve been around for a while when you start outliving trees. This one is one of the water Oaks that are tall and skinny but wide at the base and prone to rotting. It’s large enough to destroy the fence at the back of the yard, and I’ll have to get it back up in case the yard floods again. I can’t let Bert have access to water all the time or he’ll turn into an otter. The dog loves water more than he loves food.
Soon I’ll start replant some of the saplings from the woods into the yard. I’m going to create a tree corral and fence off about a quarter of the backyard for a year to keep the Loki Mutt from digging them up. Another year and I’ll fence in another section, and the next I’ll do it again. I’m going to turn the back yard into woods again, the way the giant old Oak tree in the very back of the property remembers it.