Thursday, June 24, 2010

When the Bough Breaks

This story actually starts three or four years ago, in the wintertime, when one day Jen noticed that the large maple tree in the back corner of our yard had developed a crack. About twelve or fifteen feet up, the trunk split into two large limbs, and a vertical crack had started at the crotch where the two limbs came together. The tree seemed fine, for the time being, but Jen made a few calls to the 'Tree Department' at the university, and a guy even came by to have a look at it. He outlined a 'treatment plan' involving a large band to hold the crack shut, and perhaps allow the crack to heal itself shut. It had a fairly hefty price tag, but at least we knew what we were facing. Alas, in the spring, before we had the opportunity to implement any plan, for 'treatment' or anything else, Nature took care of our problem for us, when the smaller side of the crack completely fell over. We were pretty fortunate in that nothing much was harmed in the process. It took out a section of our neighbor's fence, but between her insurance and ours, the cost was pretty minimal. The 'Tree Science' professor came back out to see what was left, and he told us that, sooner or later, the tree was gonna need to come down, but it was stable for the time being. The section that remained involved about 90% of the original trunk, so it at least had a good base. Although the missing third of the tree left behind a sort-of imbalanced situation, and the tree leaned a bit more to the left than it had before. I checked the tree a couple time a year, just to stay in touch with how it was doing, whether the crack was growing, or any rot was setting in. It always seemed OK, or at least unchanged, so I let it ride, even knowing that I was eventually going to need to take the tree down. ------------------------- Last Friday, I came home from work to find the house unoccupied. Jen and 8M had gone with friends to one of the summertime 'Plays In the Park' that they have over at the university, and all the other kids were at various and sundry of their friends' houses. I don't get a lot of quiet solitude, and so I fairly cherish it when it comes around. I got out some dinner for myself, and grabbed some reading material to catch up on while I ate. Eventually, Jen came home, with her friend Mary, the mother of 8M's friend Thomas. Jen and Mary stood chatting on the front porch, watching the sky darken as a storm approached from the west, while 8M and Thomas ran to play in the back yard. When the weather got progressively more threatening, they came inside, and soon 8M and Thomas came in, as well. Mary was concerned about driving home in a storm, so she said good-bye and took Thomas out to their car, and left, while the wind whipped up to a feverish pace. They left before it started raining, while Jen and I and 8M took in the excitement of the rushing wind and the oncoming storm. We went back in the house, and while I returned to my reading, Jen quickly went through the house, tidying things up just a bit. When she got to the family room in the back of the house, I heard her gasp sharply, and she called for me to come quickly. I hustled back to the family room, and the view out the back window, along with virtually the entire back yard, was filled with leaves and branches. In the back corner of the yard, the maple tree stood, with another gaping wound where one of the remaining limbs had broken off. The broken limb was huge - a foot-and-a-half in diameter, and 40-50 feet long, with numerous thickly-leaved branches. In its fall, it had also knocked a rather sizable limb off a neighboring tree. The pile of branches and leaves, even laying on the ground, stood 8-10 feet high. Amazingly, it hadn't hit anything else when it fell - the kids' swingset, right in the shadow of the tree that had just fallen, was untouched, as was our utility shed. Unlike the previous episode, even the neighbors' fences were unscathed. As we beheld the leafy carnage in our yard, 8M said, "Thomas and I were just playing right there a few minutes ago." And we realized how quickly it had all happened, with the wind whipping up so quickly, and so noisily that we didn't even hear a foot-and-a-half limb breaking loose. And how near a thing it had been - a pair of eight-year-olds had been playing in the yard just minutes before it fell. Their guardian angels deserve a raise in pay for urging them into the house with scant minutes to spare. ------------------------- So now, for the time being, our kids have a whole new maze of tree limbs on which to climb and explore, until we can get the chainsaw fired up to convert it into firewood (and you can trust me, that it'll be a few years' worth of firewood). Jen's brother is going to come with his more 'professional-grade' chainsaw; he's a wood-worker, and he might even want to take a big chunk of the limb home with him, to turn into furniture. Which will be fine with me. I also know that I can't afford to 'let it ride' anymore - that damn tree has just got to come down. It seems such a shame - when we moved in, it was a big, beautiful tree, providing abundant shade and sound insulation between us and our neighbors. It does a lot less of that now, aside from having now scared the bejabbers out of us for the second time. And never let it be said that I can't take a hint. . .


  1. Amazing stuff when we realize what we've been spared. And, as the saying goes, a stitch in time... (but you know that.)

  2. We live on a 'wooded lot,' so we've frequently had trees hit by lightening or blown over during wind storms. Last week, I awoke to a loud 'CRACK' and then the sound of a tree coming down (it echoes in the ridge behind us). Went out the next day and was shocked by the size of it, but fortunately, it was in the woods, far from the house. And the night had been about as still as they come. Weird!

  3. wow! soooo glad the timing was what it was and there was no damage to property either. amazing!

  4. Incredible! So glad everyone was safe.

  5. Suldog - (*sigh*) Yeah, I know. . .

    Cocotte - Well, since you heard it, I guess it counts as a tree falling in the forest. . .

    Lime - Yeah, pretty amazing. It's still a big pile of wood needing to get cut up. . .

    Michelle - Me, too. . . ;)