Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So Long, Old Chum

Dear George,
I wrote a couple of months ago about the sad state of the massive yew tree in our front yard.  It was ailing all last year, and a guy from the Ulysses Tree Service* came over, pruned off the dead branches, and infused the root system with vitamins and fertilizer.  Despite his best efforts, half the tree was dead by the end of this past winter, and Mr. Ulysses said there was little or no hope for it.  He didn’t see any evidence of disease or insect damage and concluded that the tree was simply declining from old age.  He gave us an estimate for taking it down, but we were  so attached to the yew that we couldn’t bring ourselves to take that fateful step.  For the past five months I’ve gone out and looked at it every day, hoping for some miraculous sign of rejuvenation.  But no such luck.  Several of Katja’s acquaintances have asked when we plan to chop the tree down (because its sort of a blight on the neighborhood), but she’s been noncommittal.

Last week a guy named Rich knocked on our door and asked if we’d like to have the yew tree removed.  He gave an estimate that was $200 less than Ulysses Tree Service.  I’m usually wary about people who knock on the door, but Rich looked at least semi-reliable and so we went with it.  He and his partner Rick arrived the next day, and they proceeded with the tree cutting as shown in the photos below.  They cut many of the branches into eighteen-inch lengths.  I set aside a pile to use for firewood, and they put the rest at the curbside.  All were gone within 24 hours.  Rich said that carpenter ants had killed the tree, and we actually did see a bunch of them scurrying about.   Katja asked Rich about his tattoos.  He had one on his arm for his ex-wife, three across his shoulders for his kids, and WILD AND CRAZY tattooed in large letters down his right side.  Katja asked what that meant, and Rich said his coworkers nicknamed him that because he was such a hard, intense worker.  I wasn’t so sure, but that was his story.  A few days later a stump guy came by and took out the stump with his grinder.  I’d counted the rings before he arrived; there were 72.  This tree had begun its life during World War II. 

I was bagging up the wood chips this morning when a neighbor from down the block walked by.  She said that she was shocked to see the tree gone and couldn’t believe we’d done that to her tree.  She said her dog was confused and upset that the tree was missing and has been looking here and there.  I tried to explain why we had to do it, but she just kept shaking her head and looking grim.  She wondered whether the tree would grow back, an unlikely possibility.  I understood how she felt -- I feel the same way too.  It’s sort of like losing a grandfather or a long-time friend of the family.   

*Pseudonyms used in this story 

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