Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Carolina Chain Saw Massacre

I was devastated when my big oak tree was killed by a lightning strike the summer before last. First, there was just a large "w" shaped line of dead leaves going through the lower branches. I was suspicious of a large, vertical rip in the bark that went from the base of the truck to high in the branches. Then, this past Spring, the giant tree did not leaf-out. Even then, I refused to believe it was dead, because I really loved this tree. Maybe it was a late bloomer- a late leafer. Furthermore, it was the respected grandfather of our Sterling Park neighborhood. I used to sit peacefully and protected under its huge, spreading branches and contemplate my "New Chapter in Monroe". The big oak had become a part of my life. But finally, I had to declare it deceased, particularly, when one of those huge branches fell down on the fence between me and my neighbor and slashed the power line in half so it lay on the ground, sparking and crackling. Duke Power was called in to splice the line together. By the way, I was on Thanksgiving holiday in Maryland when it happened.

A few months ago, I talked to a contractor who was removing branches from the right-of-way for the power line in my backyard. He told me that dead trees like my big oak usually didn't just fall over. Instead, they would drop their limbs one by one after being weighed down by rain and ice or bent to the breaking point by the wind. Since it was going to cost several thousand dollars to cut it down, I thought I would wait for the slow demise of the tree's branches hoping that I would be buried before it was. However, I heard a frightening story from a former forestry professor at Virginia Tech. He was called in to testify at a court proceedings in Virginia in which a man was suing his neighbor because a branch from a dead tree in his yard broke off; went through the roof of the car the man was seated in, and maimed him for life. The case was settled out of court for millions of dollars. DOWN came my beloved big oak. My Social Security benefits could pay off thousands but not millions. Who am I kidding: SS benefits can't hardly pay my heating bill. But then, there is always the wood stove.

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