Lisa got the spruce budworm last summer. She was a beautiful girl, but I tell ya, once them bugs start gnawing your needles, you’re never quite the same and she wasn’t.
Sure, the chickadees and golden-crowned kinglets ate enough of ‘em to save her, but after that, she was just kinda, well, you know, stubby.
Hard to look at, even when that big Great Gray owl sits on top of her and hunts mice.
We still share roots, both literally and figuratively. She lives just down the slope from me. I feel bad for her when the wind come up. She doesn’t take it well and groans a lot.
Now Thomas James, he’s a different story. (We call him T.J.) Last winter the snow was almost up over his head. He’s claustrophobic and for six months all he did was shiver and shake and whine and moan. I was praying an avalanche would sweep down and just snap him off at the waist.
Then there’s Gus, or what’s left of him. Gus was a big old white pine. He had a great sense of humor. A practical joker, always pretending like he was going to fall on Steve and Jerry down on the flat. You know, “Whoah, my root ball is feeling kinda loose today!”
Real gallows humor. The kind you’d expect from a white pine pushing 150.
Steve was a wispy Doug Fir and Jerry was a lodgepole pine with one of them weird looking “S” shaped trunks he got when he was held down by a big snow drift when he was two and it put a crook in his trunk.
We tried not to make fun of Jerry’s affliction, of course, but the saplings around here, well, let’s just say their bark does have bite.
But then Gus got the blister rust. We had some fundraisers for him. Lisa sang some songs. Jerry recited poems. The jokes about falling on Steve and Jerry, however, weren’t jokes anymore. Gus was going to kill one of us and everyone knew it.
We prayed for a sawyer to show up.
But one windy night he toppled over.
He obliterated T.J. and snapped off a few of Steve’s limbs.
Better them than me, I snickered.
Of course, I would get mine. Happened just the other day. It was nice and cool and I had about two inches of snow on me. I was feeling pretty spry. Then this guy and his kid with an ax show up.
When I saw them I said a little prayer. “Take Lisa, Take Lisaaaaaaa.”
But the goofy guy in his red flannel coat and suspenders with one of those gawd awful muskrat hats with the ear flaps just kept walking around and around me. He gave me one final look through his steamed up glasses and that was it.
Three good whacks and I was being hauled to the truck by that rotten kid of his.
Good-bye Lisa. Good-bye Jerry.
Inside the house it’s incorrigible. Hey! Watch where you’re hanging that ornament. Cat! Don’t eat that tinsel, you’ll get sick. Dog! Stop drinking my water. And that star! That star is crooked. I’m going to lose all my needles in the first week, I swear.
Sigh. Merry Christmas.
Chris Peterson is the editor of Hungry Horse News.