The Death of A Friend

March 7, 2011

I woke this morning with a pit in my stomach. A horrible, nagging feeling, after a tossing and turning night, that a wrong decision was going to be made, something I could never make right. In the shower, that pit just got deeper and more painful; my heart became more and more involved. I heard the truck in the driveway, 30 minutes before it was expected, making my heart ache. I thought I would be sick.

When the Ent/Arborist came to look at my honey locust trees, he found no cankers, only normal bark splits from normal growth and respectfully disagreed with Nancy. In a way, I felt better, as I never wanted to get rid of the one that’s properly sited. He did recommend a good pruning for both and a growth stunting treatment for the stupidly-placed tree. I agreed to the pruning but not to the treatment. I thought about my hammock, for which this tree is a support, but I also thought about the house, the branches, the roots which trip us up at every opportunity, the way this thing is truly only half a tree – the sheer stupidity of where this is placed. Then in a burst of decisiveness, I sent an email asking him to prune the one and take the other down – I was just postponing the inevitable.

Okay, he replied. Monday at 8.

So here it is Monday at 7:30 and my hair is not dry, I’m not dressed and I feel like I’m betraying a dear friend, irrevocably. I rush through and rush downstairs to perhaps put a stop to this madness, to embrace this awkwardly (okay, asininely) placed tree and throw myself in front of the chainsaw. WHAT was I thinking?

I am already too late. The canopy is laying all over the yard, with just the trunk and one errant branch left up. The decision has been made. I put the dogs on the leads and holding them in my hand, go outside. Lucky pretends he is a nice dog (like he always does with strangers) and Griffey barks like he might take someone’s leg off (which he actually might – very protective). They do their business as the Ent and the Young Ent begin to rope the top of the tree and to decide how they are going to take the trunk down.

The dogs go back into the house and I watch as the chainsaw bites into the bark, then slices so easily through that trunk. I’m at a total loss, completely conflicted. The tree begins to sway, then falls with a thump. I walk over and talk to the Ent while the Young Ent sets the very tall ladder against the other tree, climbs up and begins to sculpt that tree. He stands on the top rung, seemingly hanging over nothing, the ladder (in my opinion) barely supported by the tree. Tony would have a fit if he saw this, I think. Sawdust floats across the yard, gets in my eyes. It is itchy and uncomfortable.

Ent and I talk about the sadness of losing the tree, how irresponsible it is to plant magnificent organisms in the wrong spot. I asked him about how cankers can be confused with bark splits and he gives me a quick lesson about tree growth, division of cells and cambium. It is very scientific, so I am thrown for quite the loop when he suddenly says, “evolution is just nonsense – this is such a complicated process, Somebody had to be behind it all.”

Well.

I do not comment.

I head around to the front, to watch the branches loaded into the chipper. The machine is huge, the entrance protected with a thick rubber apron. The branches are sucked in so quickly – it’s like a horror-film monster sucking in a sacrifice. Which is about how I feel right now. Ent brings the trunk – about 15″ thick and 5 feet long – around and loads it onto the machine’s bed. He pushes it in (I am surprised – this is huge) and it begins to grind, chuddering, stopping, starting and blowing mulch into the truck. I run upstairs to wake up Dominic, home on spring break, to have him look out of his window. He doesn’t even move (it IS 8 am) and I run back outside.

Around in the backyard, I survey the area. Gracious, how WEIRD. It is horribly bare, the sky is bare, the yard is bare – bare, bare, bare. Ent saves me the section of trunk that held the hook for my hammock. Good lord, where am I going to hang my hammock?

I go back inside and they bring the stump grinder around to the back. It looks like a riding lawn mower, but underneath, it is much more powerful. Think of how dangerous a mower is and then multiply that by thousands and thousands. This thing is massive, sharp sharp sharp – wickedly sharp.

The dogs are asking to go outside again and I know the noise from the grinder will put them off (they hate the dustbuster, for heaven’s sake); they will stay away. And the decision I make to hold the leads lightly may haunt me forever. For when we step onto the patio, Griffey takes off in a powerful burst, running in a wide circle around the grinder. His lead pulls into a circle, with the grinder at the center. I am frozen with terror. Seconds seem like hours and like milliseconds at the same time. I wave my hands, I scream. I am afraid to grab the lead as I’m not sure what Griffey will do. Ent has earphones on, to block the sound. He does not see the lead, closer and closer to the grinder all the time.

I see it catch on the grinder and I see it pull Griffey, yank him toward the grinder so quickly, so violently. I see this struggling, terrified ball of white fur sucked into the hole, right into the blades. Ent has seen at last and turns off the motor – he is now shouting and jumping off the grinder. I think there is no way to fix this. You cannot stitch this back together. You cannot make this dog whole, you cannot make him alive again after this. There is no help for this.

Like Lazarus from the grave, Griffey bounds out of the hole and runs toward the back door. I am sick, thinking that this might be even worse. I see no red, no blood, no gore or exposed body parts on this side of his body. He stands by the door, shaking, hysterical. I am in the same condition. I run my hands over his body, covered with wood chips and saw dust. There is no blood, there is no gash, there is nothing, no injury at all. His tail is in one piece, his ears are undamaged. His lead hangs from his collar, the hook still intact, the metal cord just inches long now, chewed through.

I cannot believe this. I feel again, every inch, every bone. He does not wince, he does not nip, he does not react. He runs into his cage under the kitchen desk with no trace of a limp in any foot. The dear Ent is at the door, asking if he is okay. I go back outside and apologize about a thousand times. I shake and sit on the stoop, he gives me a hug. I babble, and babble some more, saying ” oh my god oh my god oh my god have mercy” over and over again.

He rubs my shoulder and said “Yes, He did. Yes, He did.”

Griffey stays in his cage for the remainder of the day, just coming out to drink water, eat peanut butter and go to the potty. He does not bark. I debate about taking him to the vet, but believe that will freak him out even more; he would faint from the sheer overload on his nerves. He moves slowly but fluidly – with no hint of a lasting injury, just awful muscle soreness.

I am so grateful he is alive, in one piece, unscratched and unscathed, that I don’t even think about that honey locust being gone. At least not yet.

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