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While murder ravages my neighborhood, allow me to turn aside from all THAT and present the dramatic, possibly six part series on cleaning up a tree in my front yard...
Four times in my life I have almost been hit by a tree around June 21, which is the summer solstice. I don't even know how to account for this.
Tree, Tree, Remember When I Sat On Your Knee?
The first time happened when I was quite young. I know it was late June-ish because I recall it was just after my mom's birthday. An old, dead tree was in our yard to which my mom had tied one of her many clotheslines. Strung up like spider webs they were, to tell the truth, and always full of handmade rugs...not so much being dried in the sun as being STORED there on the clothesline, but I digress and, really, I've come to love those handmade rugs.
One time my father had me sing a song to that tree that went "Tree, tree, remember when I sat on your knee?" The tree actually had a kind of "knee" sticking out where a big branch low to the ground and been lopped off and scarred over. But I've never found who wrote that song or if my dad just made it up. He had me sing it to cheer my mom. He'd done some kind of dumb drunken thing and it was my job to cheer my mom.
I stood out there in the yard and sang, over and over, "Tree, tree, remember when I sat on your knee?"
That wasn't when the tree fell over. It was years later. For no good reason at all it gave a mighty groan, and a crack as it fell. The roots tore up from the earth and dirt was flung upward. My mother saw it from the window and SCREAMED because she thought it was an earthquake.
Things make her scream. Always have. It's very un-soldierly, if you ask me, but then I tell myself she's not expected to act soldierly, not like my dad and not like my dad expected of me. She later said she screamed because when she saw the tree go, she thought it was an earthquake. In Minnesota? I wasn't buying it then and I still don't buy it. But I remember being nearby in the kitchen when she let out that scream, which was very similar to the time the frayed electric cord on her deep fat fryer started throwing sparks. And that hadn't been THAT long before the tree incident, so I remember thinking, "Oh, there she goes again" when I heard the CRASH of the tree.
My father later joked the tree fell from the weight of all those clotheslines. My mother about went nuts. Her clotheslines, her clothes, her rugs! All lying in the dirt! Days of compulsive washing and ironing behavior was ahead of us at that point. My father wanted to saw up the tree for wood (that's how we heated our house) and yet it was all tangled up with clothes.
His lumberjack wood sawing compulsion, all tangled up with my mom's laundry and clothing compulsions. I remember hearing a whole lot of G** DAMN IT's from my father.
Piece by piece we burned the tree. My mom was sad because the clothesline had been strung by my Grandpa Joe, my maternal grandfather. Every time another little piece of Grandpa Joe went away, she was sad.
"Be glad you and John aren't up there MEETING HIM right now," was how my father phrased it.
So that was the first time I almost got hit by a tree during the summer solstice. My dad said the clothesline saved me and my mother. The tree had initially fallen TOWARD the house, but then was reeled back and wrestled to the ground by the multiple clotheslines, some of which were made of old salvaged PHONE WIRE. (I think) (No, the kind strung on poles, not the kind from old indoor "land lines")
Gilby, North Dakota
A tree fell on my house in Gilby, North Dakota from a tornado.
I wasn't in the house at the time. But I'm pretty sure the tornado was in June. I know for sure the tree was a basswood. This story really needs to be told with all the detail it deserves so for now I'll just say this:
People came by and took pictures. It was the most spectacular example of tornado damage in Gilby that summer. Incredibly, I developed some kind of personal relationship with the tree, not quite as peaceful as that between Julia Butterfly Hill and her beloved redwood "Luna," but all the same...
I managed to save the house, even though the tree hit the roof dead square. I had to act quickly and get the weight off the roof before further damage occurred. Incredibly, I sort of saved the tree, which grew at an odd angle after that...like an artillery piece. In the roots where the tree had come out of the earth, I found an old rusty flatiron from pioneer days.
I think I still have it somewhere.
The Day Before The Wedding
On the day my sister was married, I stayed out on my mom's farm in my brother's old trailer house to be at church the next day. It was a tough time in my life as I tried to get a life going in the Twin Cities near my child, and I was hanging on by a thread. But you can't miss your sister's wedding, even if you've been to her wedding before.
It was a dark and stormy night. And then there was a loud crash. A great basswood tree fell toward the trailer house where I was sleeping, just taking out the corner. I could see yellow insulation, jagged aluminum and stormy sky.
It was, once again, late June-ish. Out in the rain and lightning, I immediately started sawing up the tree to get the weight of the branches off the roof of the trailer. It was like the incident in Gilby all over again, only this tree couldn't be saved. The trailer was, however, patched up.
Looking at the angle of the tree and where I was sleeping in the trailer...
Yeah. But for dumb luck I could have been killed. For the record, I hope my sister would have had the wedding anyway or, at worst, only delayed a day or two.
Life must go on and casserole in the church basement isn't going to eat itself.
Death Of The Warnke Willow
Which brings us to the fourth tree, the fourth miss, and the death of the Warnke Willow on June 21, 2013.
This tale will be continued another day. For now...
Yeah, that photo above is what I found in my yard on June 21, and also this:
What kept that tree from falling right into my house?
I'm guessing it was...