One night, a couple
years back, my truck broke down just outside of a run-down junk yard that
overflowed with rusted out beaters and used up engine blocks. As the rain began
to fall, I quickly hustled over to a run-down shack where the “Office” sign
hung from a board with cracked paint and weathered wood. As I pounded on the
door, there was no movement inside nor sign of life. Seeing as I was just
looking for a battery to jump start my truck, I figured I could jump the fence,
grab a spare battery and jump my, truck and then return the battery with a
couple bucks slipped under the door. Easy enough, right?
I hopped the fence and kept my eyes peeled for any dogs or other surveillance, but there was nothing to be seen. I slowly walked around until I discovered a battery sitting in the backseat of an old Chevy pickup truck that had seen far better days. I cracked the door open when something fell from front seat of the truck and landed right in the mud at my feet. I bent over and picked up what was an old notebook. It sent a small shock through my fingertips, up my arms and down my spine as I touched it. It was crusty and strange, and had numbers and addresses written all over it. The rain picked up even harder so I hopped in the front seat of the Chevy, hoping to stay dry for a bit. As the rain pounded on the windshield, I looked down and realized I was still holding the notebook and that it had opened on my lap.
I began reading the scribbled addresses that sprawled across the coffee stained pages. Mrs. Jones 44 Carolina Ave, 2 Spruce trees, $200. Pete 4534 Elmwood, 1 Maple, $400. With nothing else to do, I kept flipping through the pages of the notebook. I remembered keeping a notebook like this when I first started my tree service, so it was amusing to go through and see someone else’s work laid out in front of me. As I slowly turned the pages, I noticed the writing was becoming more and more erratic. Eventually the pages only contained a a single scratchy line of ink that stretched from page to page to page until finally developing into an illustration of the roots of an enormous tree spread out over two pages. The tree was super detailed with deep bark, long limbs, and an ominous broken top that gazed back at me with jagged broken fibers sticking skyward like the teeth of an evil demon.
As I studied the tree illustration, a crack of lightning lit up the sky and enveloped the area with the roar of thunder! As I looked up from the lightning crack, I swore I saw a quick flash of a massive silhouette of a tree with long limbs that reached out toward me and my old Chevy. But after sitting in the amber glow of the cab light, I wondered if it was just my imagination getting the best of me.
That’s when it happened.
With a thunderous smash,
something hit the hood of the truck! I looked out the shattered windshield to
see Oak leaves slowly sliding down onto my hood. Now this is where it gets
strange, as the leaves slid down off the windshield they also lifted up into
the air. That’s not how gravity works! I jumped out of the truck to see what
was going on and to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me!
I wiped the beating rain from my face and looked up at the behemoth in front of me. It was a massive Oak tree that was swaying its long reaching limbs in the vicious winds that whipped at my skin. The rain was pelting me in the face and the eyes, but I could make out all the parts of the tree from the glow of the shack’s light. It was peculiar how the tree moved as if the wind wasn’t moving the limbs move but instead, they had a life of their own. I began to see jagged cuts and scars that had been made on this beast of a tree. Big stub cuts had been left four feet out from the trunk, which had now grown into giant clubs of snarled sucker growth. Some of the long limbs had been incorrectly stubbed off as well, leaving long medieval looking clubs ready for battle. Multiple scars ran down the trunk of the tree where some inexperienced climber had kicked out in their spurs leaving deep gashes in the bark that made the tree look like a wounded soldier ready for more war. This tree had been through a battle with some hack tree trimmers once or twice.
That’s when the next scary thing happened. As I stood in the rain staring at this monster looming over me, a giant bolt of lightning lit up the junkyard. It made my high-vis Bartlett shirt glow in the immense light. That’s when the tree really started to move! I know it sounds crazy but it was almost like the tree saw that my shirt had “arborist” on it and came alive! One of the tree’s large clubbed branches swung down and crushed the rest of the Chevy I had just been sitting in. Another limb took a swing and the truck was thrown across the parking area like a cat toy. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
Just then I saw a cable in the tree that had been installed way too low. It snapped right in the middle and swung wildly back and forth lashing out at me like an evil whip. It ripped across the roof of the office, ripping sheet metal from the roof and throwing it into the air. The tree lurched forward, almost as if being pushed forward by hurricane-force winds. As the tree leaned, one of its clubbed arms swung forward, using the many suckers to trip me up as I tried to run. The large limb slowly pushed against my body, trapping me to the ground. I could feel the air being pushed out of me as the mud and water started to flow down the back of my shirt and into my pants. I thought this was the end!
The tree leaned further and further forward until all of its mass was directly over me. The top of the tree was full of jagged, splintered fibers that looked like a grin, which began moving toward my face. The fibers slowly flexed back and forth like the jaws of a shark or dragon getting ready to bite down on its helpless prey. As the hollow, massive mouth and throat of the tree moved closer to me, I spotted broken and frayed climb lines dangling from branches like flesh hanging out of the mouth of a rabid beast. Inside the throat I could make out spurs that had been bent and crushed--still holding leg bones and dried leather boots! Deep in the throat laid a shirt with dark crimson stains on it that read “I hugged it first.” This tree was a killer!
I screamed for help to no avail, I was trapped and the tree just kept moving its splintered fibers closer and closer to my face. Rain was in my eyes and it was hard to see. I choked from the onslaught of never-ending rain that now poured straight into my face. Surely this tree was going to crush me into the ground and then slowly ingest me either through its rows of jagged splintered teeth or up through its roots once it pushed me into the ground with its enormous weight.
Out of the corner of my rain drenched eyes I caught a fluttering movement next to my head. I could see the white light of unconsciousness slowly creeping into my peripheral vision. I turned my head to see the crusty old notebook I had been reading earlier laying open in the mud. The page was no longer on the drawing of the tree, but on a page with just a few words scrawled across the parchment. The words looked as if they were written in blood, seeing as the ink ran a dark red as the rain splattered the letters. I squinted my eyes to see what the words were before the water washed them away. I slowly made out
“SHOW THE TREE RESPECT
tell the Tree what you are and will be set free.”
I had no idea what this was supposed to mean but as the tree leaned harder on my chest I had no other choice but to try.
I yelled to the massive tree, “Your limbs are enormous and capable of reaching towards the gods. Your trunk can withstand any wind the earth throws your way. Your vigor is so great that any harm humans show towards you is covered with bark and mass. You are a great and majestic tree!”
I could feel a small tremble throughout the limbs as the last word came out of my lips. I felt a bit of reprieve from the never-ending weight of the tree. Maybe it worked?!?! Just as the thought crossed my mind the tree shuddered again and pushed harder than ever upon my chest. I could hear ribs cracking and the pressure in my head was building. Slowly the tree pushed harder and harder until I could take no more. The sweet white light of unconsciousness was creeping ever closer to the center of my vision. This was it. The tree was going to crush me into the earth.
With the last bit of air
that was held deep within my lungs, I uttered not much more than a whisper,
“I’m a Certified Arborist” and let the white light pass over my vision before
everything faded to black.
Slowly I opened my eyes to bright sunlight filtering through the leaves of a large tree that stood over top of me. My chest ached and my head pounded, but I was alive! I definitely looked worse for the wear. My body was covered in mud and leaves and my clothes were soaked, but the warm sunshine felt good against my skin. I tried to search through the fog of memories that floated through my head but couldn’t make sense of what had happened the night before. I slowly stood up and took in everything that was around me. I was in the middle of some sort of junkyard. It had rained the night before. My battery had died. That’s when I saw the shadow that sprawled out before me on the dirt lot. I spun around with fear in my throat, ready to run from the beast that had tried to crush me the night before!
What stood before me was a majestic Oak tree that once long ago had been full of life and had stood tall above the other trees in the area. Now its limbs were overgrown with epicormic growth, and the top was a jagged stub from being topped and having the shoots break off from weak attachments. This tree was once a sentinel that stood tall over the neighborhood, but now it’s stunted and haggard growth was an eyesore to all those that used to bask in its beauty.
This is the story of what happens when uneducated hacks come knocking on doors, promising the cheapest price around and destroy beautiful trees with bad pruning practices. This tree is a warning to all those that dare spike their prunes, to all those that leave hideous stubs instead of proper pruning cuts, this tree is a warning to everyone that tops trees. The trees will come looking for you and hopefully you know the right things to say and the right things to do when they do!
Happy Halloween and hopefully you get as much of a laugh out of this as we did!
Written by Certified Arborist, Jake Carufel