This winter, one of the more impressive of our oak trees finally gave into gravity and old age, and tipped over. The January ice and an unexpected wet snowfall didn’t help matters much. All that additional weight, combined with a couple hundred year’s growth, simply proved too much for the majestic old tree.
Nicknamed ‘The Raccoon Tree’, by our oldest grandson, Kai, when he was three, the tree stood guard over a small meadow. Its name was derived due to a not-so-small burrow at the base of the tree, which the lad was sure was the front door of an impressive herd of raccoons.
Kai and I spent several mosquito-dodging, sweltering nights beneath the stars, camped out in a tent close to the old tree. Outlined against the clear, July nighttime skies, the branches of the tree swirled into magical shapes. Kai would snorkel down several juice boxes, then wander as far as three feet away from the tent to make room for a few more sips. For my part, I suspected that consuming large quantities of really bad beer would hold all but the most dedicated mosquitoes, bugs and varmints at bay. We’d eat Oreos and chew gum, and talk about where trees came from and how owls talk to each other. Soon, Kai would grow quiet, and slip off to dream of tractors, trees, raccoons and the moon.
Over the past couple weeks, I have worked to hack the Raccoon Tree into submission, and transform it into next year’s firewood.
Kai lives about as far away from the farm as possible these days, and is looking forward to the first day of high school. A formidable, six-foot, freshman linebacker.
Every second I spend working the Raccoon Tree reminds me of the magic a little boy can bring to a tree, the stars and a couple juice boxes.
I’ll be wandering this fall, trekking far from the farm to spend a few weeks with Kai and his little brothers. With his parents traveling to Kenya for a couple weeks, I’m sure the boys and I will create new adventures, as we live without the constraints of adult supervision.
We will have fun on the east coast, while the Raccoon Tree, now neatly cut, split and stacked, stands guard between two fir trees, and, like all of us, patiently awaits the next chapter of life.
"Elephants and grandchildren never forget."