The Water Oak is noticeable because it has a hollow in it and Sam like to hunt in the hollow parts of trees. He’ll stand on his hind legs and stick his head and neck deep into a tree looking for something to chase, something worth snuffling, and something to communicate a sense of territory to in all. Sam is more serious about hunting than any dog I’ve ever shared time with. Sam views all small mammals at the same threat level but this is a hollow that is deep and dark. Anything living in this hollow will be safe from Sam, and Sam knows this, but this is his way of letting everyone know, including myself, that Sam is still hunting.
Trees with hollows like this eventually die and this one has been creaking and grinding for about a year now. Sam once found some stray scent at the base of the hollow and he pawed and clawed a large chunk out of place. He came back into the house with sawdust all over his head, but no prey to show for his work, this time. I thought about putting a time capsule into a hollow once, but this is an unsure way of tracking time. The tree may fall and the hollow exposed, in a year instead of twenty.
Lucas isn’t the hunter Sam is or even the hunter that Bert was. He nailed a squirrel once, and he’s blundered upon an armadillo or two, but Lucas just isn’t into chasing and killing thing like Sam is. So I was surprised when Lucas even took notice of the two skinks mating near the hollow Monday. Skinks are largish lizards and I’ve never seen two of them mating in the open like that. Lucas bonded over to the hollow and woofed at them, as if he were berating them about public sex, or perhaps because I had just gotten home and he felt playful. Lucas rears up on his hind legs, stiffening his front legs and he’ll bounce on his front legs like this once or twice. I call it “The Loki Leap” Lucas is still full of energy even though this is his third year.
I’ve dropped more than a few trees in my life, and had two or three here fall, including a large Oak that put a hole the size of a car in my roof. It was hard to lose a tree like that, and the contractor that pulled the tree out of the house did a damn fine job of it, and all the neighbors came to watch. I was more saddened by the loss of the tree than the hole in my house, because the hole is gone now and the roof is whole again. The Oak is gone also, but there is nothing to replace it in my lifetime, and I can only hope the young Oaks I have let live in the yard will one day get that size.
Water Oaks are not a long lived species, and the one with the hollow was lying on the ground when I got home Thursday. It lay rotted and shattered on the ground and as many times as I have seen it, this still shocks me, and saddens me, when a tree falls. This was a tree a mere thirty feet tall, but it likely had stood much longer than I have lived, and certainly longer than I have lived in this house. The hollow didn’t go as far up into the tree as I suspected, and it’s strange to see the hollow dissected like this. The skinks are still in the shattered truck, and they watch me and the mutts now with renewed curiosity. Their home is not as secure as it was just yesterday.
Life is pure luck and nothing more sometimes. Had the tree fell on Sam or Lucas, or both, a death would have occurred, and it would have killed me had I been hit. I once had a small tree fall right where I had been working, and that would have been painful at the least. Yet no one was hurt or killed, and as I have said, it is luck and no more. I’ve never lost a dog to something like that and I hope I do not, but nature is fickle and unfair, betimes. I worry about leaving the dogs alone while I am at work but have for over a decade now. Tree and limbs fall, gravity operates blindly, and the dogs seem to be able to get out of the way. The tree that hit the house must have scared the hell out of them but it could have been a hell of a lot worse.
I once worked loading Avon boxes onto vans and it was a physically demanding job. The semi trucks would come in at night, we would unload them, load the vans, and then fall to the floor and sleep there, curled up like dogs on pieces of cardboard. On the bulletin board was a newspaper clipping where one of the vans had been crushed by the falling limb of a massive Oak. The limb was eight feet in circumference. The man driving the van had been killed and it was one of those wrong place wrong times moments for the driver. Life is pure luck and nothing more sometimes.
The Water Oak was noticeable because it had a hollow in it. Over one hundred years of growth fell over in the wind and it was just pure luck a dog wasn’t hit, or something I owned wasn’t crushed. The corpse of the tree lies in a straight line because it didn’t crash into anything on the way down, but over fifty feet to the east stands a piece of the hollow, sticking up as if mocking gravity, flung there by some unseen binding, or bounced there after the impact. Lucas picks the piece of the hollow up and chews on it a bit, then lets it fall again. Pure luck kept the two, dog and dead tree, apart, and then pure luck brought them together. I can’t help but wonder how much that blind and random force in the Universe plays in everyone’s lives, and how many people will read this, and smile.