The pine tree stood at the edge of the pasture, once majestic and green with bark of brown and gray, but now ghostly white. Branches that at one time supported long leaf needles and harnessed the energy of the sun had long fallen to the ground and now mostly all that remained was the trunk. That trunk spoke of the age of the tree. It reached fifty or more feet into the air and that height was still supported by wood that at the base was probably two feet straight across the middle. The pine bark beetles had come through a decade ago and felled at least ten of the big pines, or so we have been told, this one among them. The old ghost tree was the only pine left to testify to the raid. I guess there was a reason this one succumbed and others around it hadn’t. I don’t know the reason, I never will. I just know it did.
The problem was that as things go, it was clear that losing needles and turning white was not where the decay would stop. The tree was bound to rot to the point that its fifty foot height would eventually bring it to lie, full length, across the ground. That is unless the south wind that always blows from the gulf would chase the length of it to lie across the old farm house. For all intents and purposes, it seemed to be leaning that way and with each windy day that we watched, there seemed to be more reason to believe it would fall closer to the house than not.
Neil and Bob brought out the chain saw and Mother and I watched from what I calculated was a longer distance than the tree was tall. The wind blew a little and with a newly sharpened chain, they positioned the saw on the side that that had endured the push of a southerly wind. They created a crescent slice on that south side as sawdust flew and the sound of a blade grinding through the bottom of an old pine tree filled that little valley. From where I stood I reasoned I could smell the odor of new sawn pine. I could also see the tension in both men’s bodies. A man with a saw aimed at making a match of an old, old pine has to think about what he is doing. If it’s your day to do this sort of job there is only one thing you can do. You pluck up and go after it and tackle it the best way you can and pray that random luck doesn’t fall badly on your side.
Bob swung the axe to dislodge the crescent shaped slice. I remembered times past of axes and my men. I remembered the times Bob swung an axe in rhythmic motion as he chopped wood for our first fireplace and the very clear memory of watching my Jake do the same after a hurricane had felled a tree in our yard. “Jake told me he was scared when he climbed up into that tree that had topped out during the hurricane, but he did it anyway.” Mother said. Proper respect for nature, I thought, and in my mind’s eye, even now I can still see the sinewy muscles, fueled by adrenaline, as Jake faced his fears and did what he thought was necessary.
Neil and Bob moved to the north side of the tree and began the downward cut that was calculated to cause the tree to lean toward the missing crescent. I saw the very moment the great tree began to lean south. As if in slow motion first, the fall gathered speed and was over in seconds, the final sound a great thud and shudder, as it hit the ground. Triumphant, Neil and Bob took a moment to look at that big old pine. The tension eased visibly out of their bodies and the fear of it falling on the farm house or worse on one of them during the job, eased the disappointment that the job had to be performed at all. We all shared a knowing smile. The odor of pine wood for sure filled the air as they cut that giant into smaller lengths.
Happy Monday and don’t be afraid. I pray that should you have any giants in your life that threaten you, you will have courage to tackle them.
Quote of the day: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
Bible verse for the day: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39