Right down the road there’s a man with his chainsaw. It’s running hard this morning. The saw makes an angry voice every time it bites into the side of a tree.
I hear it run for a minute, then it stops. Seconds later I hear the crash or a deep clump of sound. Something hitting the ground. A tree falls. I hear someone yelling from time to time. Giving instructions to the men.
Then, once again, the chain saw starts its angry voice. Another tree falls.
My Grandfather owned land in Franklin County, MS. He and I used to walk over it. He had to use a walking stick. I was young. I wore cowboys boots and a cowboy hat. He taught me about pine trees and hardwoods, He had a lot of oak trees. The sweet gum trees were just starting to invade back then.
He pulled out his knife one day and carved my name into the side of a beech tree. He said the beech bark was the easiest to carve. He told me to come back and find the tree when I was grown.
“Your name will still be right here, on the side of this tree.” He said, as he worked his knife deeper into the bark.
As long as he owned that land, he never cut the hardwood trees, save one or two a year for firewood. He just didn’t allow his hardwoods to fall under an angry chain saw.
“Mike, it takes a hundred years for a good oak tree to grow. Them pines over there,” he was pointing for me to see. “They take about twenty, maybe twenty-five years. If we can cut them now. You will have another bunch to cut in your lifetime.” He was a wise man.
After he died, the trucks and the chainsaws showed up one morning. They hauled his forest down a gravel road.
A week later, when I went down there, the beech tree was gone. I stood on the stump, angry at my loss. I wanted to cry.
I used to cut my own firewood. Every time I cut into a tree, I thought about what my Grandfather said.
I enjoyed being in the woods, cutting and splitting wood to heat our home. We needed about three cords of wood to get through the winter.
I stacked the wood just outside the back door. I cut wood in the late spring or early summer, before the heat came.
Sometimes, I would sit outside in the early evening, listening to the wood as it dried and seasoned itself. I could smell the sap when we split the wood. I swear, I think it was talking to me.
It was a good time back then.
The chain saw down the road has stopped for now. The trucks have hauled off the trees. Mother nature is already thinking about a new generation of trees.
I hope she throws in a couple of beech trees. Kids and grandfathers need to connect.
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