Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Requiem for a Tree

We lost a tree a few weeks ago. The landlord was afraid that if it came down, it would hit our house. The tree folk who took it down agreed and said it was likely hollow/rotten at the core.

Now, anyone looking at our place would remark: How can you miss one tree? We have about six or seven ancient oaks that shade the whole property of two houses and a large garage/workshop. We have a wood on the south side that runs east to west for about a mile and is hundreds of yards deep. Oaks, hickories, elms, maples, pines, and many I cannot name are well represented. There are enough nuts for squirrels and some forage for deer. The wood straddles a ravine that runs the same way, and was PDB's gun range for several years. In the winter, with the leaves down and the brush fairly clear, he had a clear 30-40 yards across the ravine with a hill for a backstop.

So why this eulogy for one tree in the forest? This tree was a magnificent red oak. It stood on the edge of the woods and guarded our yard and an entrance to the woods. It had been there for many, many years. Before these buildings were here, the land was farmed. The tree stood on the head of a gentle slope, and any farmer can tell you that if you repeatedly plow or cultivate near the woods on a down-slope you will create a bank as the soil always runs down hill. The tree stood on a four-foot bank.

I called it the Sentinel Tree. Mathman put his archery targets at the base of the bank below the tree. He had a clear sight of about 60 feet. If you come down the drive and glance back at the woods, and don't look at the stump, you would never guess that that great tree was ever there. There are taller trees behind the stump. But this oak was massive. The stump is 42" across three feet above grade. And contrary to expert opinion, it was solid through. The landlord's son hauled off four logs, 8-10' long, to be sawn and milled. It yielded 36 to 40 feet of straight-grained red oak. I guess that's a good use for the Sentinel, but it was a healthy tree.

We came home from work one day and saw a guy climbing to the top of the tree, dropping ropes to a second guy, and taking the tree down a section at a time. When they dropped the upper trunk, it shook the house. The lower trunk was more massive, but it didn't have as far to fall. We just felt a shudder in the ground.

All around our part of NC trees are being sacrificed to the development gods. A local golf course in the city limits was sold. It was a big property, 27 holes, clubhouse, parking lot, lots of trees. All are gone. I saw some log trucks taking some of the trees, but most they burned. We had smoke in the air for weeks. Now there are condos in barren fields, and a few offices/light industrial buildings empty of tenants. The Ents wept for weeks.

I am not a tree hugger. I know my header declares I am Left Write Left. Trees grow; I just hate to see them go.

One more thing. I never expected that tree to be cut down. I never paid it that much attention. It was there guarding our yard and its woods. Things that we love, value, or just appreciate sometimes can only survive by someone else's whim. They hang by a thread; they may be destroyed at will, by accident, or by purpose. They are gone just the same.

BRB is Write (and misses the Sentinel Tree)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Fourth of July

Yup, it's tomorrow, but today I have the computer all to myself.

I posted about the 4th last year, but I have a few new thoughts this year. One old thought: I prefer calling it Independence Day. That was when all those traitors to the British Crown declared their desire to be free and were willing to fight for it. Against all odds, it worked. That'll teach tyrants to throw out all their dissidents, third sons of the nobility, and independent thinkers. They will turn on you. The present government here should take note of that fact, but I guarantee they won't.

July 4th, 1968: I was in Vung-Tau, Viet Nam. We had no duty and went to the beach and ate steaks, drank a lot of beer, went swimming in the South China Sea, and passed out in the sand. Then, it seemed like a good time. That night, instead of fireworks, a bunch of GIs fired off a lot of ammo into the air complete with flares and tracers. Nice show, but I was still heading to the bunker, hung over, and not knowing who was shooting: VC or us.

July 4th, 1976: We lived in a campground in PA. That was our home. I wasn't feeling very patriotic. But the campground had some fireworks, and the smell of cordite freaked me out. We ate a lot of camp food with our neighbors, and then planned our emigration to Canada.

July 4th, every year we lived in Canada (1977-1995), we never let our kids forget that we were still Americans. We celebrated Canada Day July 1, every year, saw a lot of fireworks and then had a few sparklers and grilled more meat on the 4th.

July 4th, 1996-present: We have been in NC, in the same house. Had a few 4ths here with the family. We have never gone to any public display of fireworks, parades, or whatever. It has become a time for family gatherings 'cause we have the day off. (unless you're an independent retailer giving your help the day off. See PDB)

July 4th, 2007: We are heading to Wal-Mart for the weekly supplies and commercial abuse. We have one senior member of the family in the hospital; some other family members will be at the POPS concert in Boston; others will be in their pool in Florida.

We are diverse and scattered. We will be doing thoroughly American things (except traveling), and remembering that dissension is the American way. (Well, maybe not all of us.)

Have a good holiday; celebrate your freedoms by taking them out for a walk.

BRB is Write (and has a Red, White, and Blue cake in the house.)