Rex and Bud were already in their eighties the day we all stood together in Bud’s deep back yard. They’d been neighbors and friends for almost fifty years. Theirs were the first two houses built on of our street.
So okay, now we’re standing there, scrutinizing the huge tree that’s way in the back corner of Bud’s lot. Some kind of spruce or pine thing. It’s dying—even I can see that. Probably dangerous. If it fell in some odd direction, it could certainly endanger life and, well…limb. Rex and Bud nod without speaking.
Now it turns out that the still-strapping Rex was, at one time, something of a formidable lumberjack—if he said so himself. He offered to cut the thing down. His eyes glinted once more at his forty-foot adversary, and he pinched them down a bit. He said it would land right there. He pointed.
Bud studied on the idea. I shut up. Over there was the tree. Over here was his best friend who drank to much, slept too much, and watched too many game shows because he thought he’d lost his purpose in life. Bud silently weighed things. Weighed fifty years of trust. Weighed Rex’s beaming face. He weighed me not at all. Then he said okay.
Rex pounded off and returned with a bunch of large, rusty wedges; a couple of pry things; and a double-edged axe that looked like Paul Bunyan might have used it. Once more he took the measure of his opponent, then marched over and began attacking the trunk. Moments passed, as he gradually loosened and came alive to his task, swinging high and free, as though he were thirty again; whacking and wedging, wedging and whacking. Maybe two wedgings in a row once a while.
Then he stepped back and looked over his handiwork; looked up into the thick bower of branches. He considered things one more time, then whacked one of the wedges in another inch, side-kicked the stump, and—oh, my Lord!—the whole thing began to topple. Crack!! Gaaaaa!!… …Whomphhh!! …It’s down.
To be fair, it landed about five feet to the right, on top of the camelias. Rex shrugged it off as being a consequence of atmospheric conditions. Then we spent the afternoon chopping up the remains, piling them up; before going around to the front porch for a drink in the fading sun. Bud and I had Coors from the can. Rex had a whiskey sour.
And that’s as true a story as you’ll ever get from me.