Some call it “hip bone connected to the thigh bone.” Kipling called it “Predestination
in the stride o’ yon connectin’-rod.” Others call it dominoes falling.
The summer of 2000 had a series of events that began with
a piano player and ended with plenty of wood for the fireplace.
A neighbor couple invited us to come over and listen to a
pianist from Louisville. We sat out by a little lake and heard Prisoner of Love,
Danny Boy, and all the old songs from the time when we kissy-faced in the moonlight.
That was back when thunder and lightning were mainly sound effects.
But, on this evening, there were serious rumblings rushing
out of the southeast. The wind began to blow the willows over into the water.
The tied canoes bobbed up and down. Thunder tromped the blackened sky and lightning
turned crazier than anything we’d ever seen in Texas (the place where lightning
The piano player moved inside, and we decided it was time
to go home. Driving down Plum Lick Road was as scary as Shelley’s “Angels of
rain and lightning.” Wind had collapsed a neighbor’s greenhouse and taken the
roof off his shed, but we couldn’t see it in the pitch black.
As we approached our house, where the water maples are more
than 80 years old, one of the trees had snapped about eight feet up and crashed
through the fence. A wind shear had uprooted another giant maple patriarch and
heaved it lengthwise in front of the house, ripping out the gutter, missing
the porch by inches.
We stood in the rain and gaped.
Next morning, we took the chainsaw and had it sharpened.
Bought a sledgehammer and rounded up the steel wedges. Now, we’ve got enough
firewood for 30 winters.
We noticed a peculiar stain on the trunk of the first tree.
Beehive. So we called a beekeeper, and he came out and removed a fine colony
of bees. He promised to return next year with a new queen and several hives
to help pollinate our clover field.
Called the gutter man, and he fixed that, while our family
discussed wooly worms and came up in the usual quandary about whether this’ll
be a good or a bad winter. City folks generally prefer good winters because
it speeds up getting to and from work. Farm folks are usually partial to bad
winters, because it conditions the soil and cuts back on the insect population.
One of the steel wedges said, “Hit me square, or don’t hit
me at all,” and left a razor-sharp sliver as a reminder that it was serious.
The chainsaw said, “I’ve had about enough of this,” tightened
up, and refused to make one more cut.
Found a small-engine repairman on the other side of Sharpsburg,
and he performed brain surgery on the chainsaw. While the patient rested in
the recovery room, the doctor took us into his house and played a tune on his
banjo. Then he played the fiddle. Then the guitar. The doctor’s wife played
a hymn on the electric organ.
Man shows up on our doorstep and wants to know if we have
any trees we’d like to have “harvested.” We said, “How ’bout a couple of water
He smiled but was in more of a black walnut and wild cherry
frame of mind. On any other day we would have probably said, no, we love our
trees and they love us. Instead, we said, let’s go look. He spotted about a
dozen and said he’d be back to get them. This may offend purists, but why wait
until lightning strikes and the wind begins to blow?
Somebody, somewhere, will never know the origin of a new
piece of furniture or, maybe, the front door to a house.
It all began with that piano player from Louisville, Stardust,
and a strong wind out of the southeast.