Saturday, March 19, 2005

Wiley Coyote has nothing on my Dad

We had 3 weeping willow trees in the yard of the house I grew up in. One of them was on the edge of the property. It was about 30 feet tall. Another was in the middle of the back yard. A behemoth of a willow tree, probably 100 feet tall and it branched out 50 feet wide. The third was next to the driveway. It was much smaller. It had two horizontal branches that grew out about two feet apart, one above the other. The upper branch had a fork in it that was a perfect backrest. I nailed a board about 12x12 to the bottom branch. (My ass actually fit on a 12x12 board, of course I was 12 at the time.) I nailed another board to the upper branch - it was almost like a highschool desk. I would sit in that tree for hours reading. I would hide there from my parents when I knew I was in trouble. I cherished my own quiet space with nothing but chirping sparrows for company.

I loved weeping willow trees when I was a kid. They are like huge umbrellas when you are under them, safe from everything outside of their cover. They gently sway in the breeze and the Orioles love to nest in their branches. The way they weave the long flexible branches together and made a little bag of a nest always amazed me.

My Dad however, was not so fond of them. They have very shallow roots that are easily visible and it's tough to grow a decent lawn under them, nevermind trying to mow it. They also attract a lot of bugs, especially little green beetles. You also have to trim them or the branches grow all the way to the ground. They are high maintenance trees. The behemoth was the first to go. My Dad cut it down and used it for firewood.

My tree was eventually cut down to make way for a beautiful rock garden. I was sad when it went, it held fond memories for me.

The third tree got revenge for the other two being cut down.

There was a violent windstorm that uprooted the third willow. The root ball was 20 feet across. The shallow root system and a big canopy to catch the wind made it an easy job. Luckily it missed the deck, but it made a mess of the backyard.

My Dad dug out his chainsaw to clean up the mess. The trunk of the tree was about 3 feet thick, easily straddled to begin the process of dicing it up. My Dad straddled the tree to cut the top off. Now this was a bad idea for a couple of reasons. The first being that the tree wasn't completely uprooted. It was laying on it's side but still had connected roots and as I said, the root ball was 20 feet wide. The second being that the canopy on willow trees weighs a lot. Do you see where I am going with this?

Dad thought it was a good idea to cut off the top of the tree first, as he straddled it. The chainsaw roared as it dug into the soft wood, slicing through it like a hot knife through butter. It was over quickly. The only problem was that my Dad had cut off the counterweight to the root system. Once freed, the trunk felt the pull of it's roots and started to upright itself. Now, when you are straddling a tree that starts to rise quickly right between your legs you don't have a lot of time to think. All he could do was hang on and go for the ride. He grabbed the trunk as it came up under him and held on for dear life with the chainsaw still in one hand. The roots thunked back into the hollow left when it was ripped from the ground. Picture it: my Dad, 15 feet in the air, clinging to the trunk of the tree with all his might, still holding the chainsaw, laughing his ass off because he was lucky enough to be unscathed. And there was no one else around to see it happen.

My Mom came home from work, she saw the tree - upright again. She turned to my Dad and calmly asked "Why did you put it back?"

The weeping willow tree stayed where it was. Shorter of stature, but proud in it's nature. It had gotten it's payback for the destruction of it's buddies.


Magazine Man said...

I swear, we could make a mint collecting everyone's "misadventures of Dad" stories and publishing them. Ya with me?

Hilarious stuff. You've got some wicked good content here, by Gorry.

Sharfa said...

I am totally with you! Wait till you hear the one about the mole holes and a can of gasoline!

Thanks, truely, I am humbled by your kind words.

Rurality said...

I love your blog and I'm grateful to magazineman for pointing the way to it. You should have been doing this for a long time!

Your dad sounds a lot like mine. He had an adventure with chipmunk holes and a can of gasoline... It ended in a large whoosh of flame in an unexpected place, and lots of prayerful thank-yous that those %&#@* chipmunks hadn't actually tunnelled under the house. :)

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the saying that the Extreme Makeover Team on November 6th read about the weeping willow tree when the family first walked into the newly built house? It was beautiful!