In the spring of 2007 tree planting was on our minds. Since moving into our new house two years ago, not much has been accomplished in the way of landscaping. This year Marcia and I were determined to shape up the grounds a little.

Part of this plan included planting some new trees in the barren space below the house. Wanting to add evergreens to the landscape, we chose a healthy Frasier Fir and two Nelly Holly trees. The Frasier Fir and the Holly trees will add color during the winter months and are species that elicit fond memories for both of us, so we thought them to be good choices.

The trees, spaced about thirty feet apart, planted, we were admiring the choice, imagining what they would look like after a few years growth, when we spotted a small holly tree growing next to a large oak farther down in the field. Having decided this small tree would look much better along the same plane we just finished planting, we proceeded to dig it up and move it.

This wild holly was growing only a few inches from the base of the oak so the digging was not as easy as I first imagined, considering we wanted to save the tree. We debated how best to accomplish the job before getting started. This was mostly good-humored banter, nothing serious. Since this was only a small tree, maybe eighteen inches tall, one would expect the removal from the ground to take place rather quickly.

Well because its proximity to the oak, our not wanting to harm the holly tree, and the fact that we were working on a slight hill, not to mention we had already dug three other holes in the ground to plant the trees we bought, causing me to be getting a little tired of this exercise, I started getting a little impatient.

“Stand back” I said, “let me show you how to get this thing out.” Standing on the downhill side, I bent over and grasped the holly tree as close to the ground as I could and started to pull.

“Stop it, you idiot. You’re going to break off the roots.” Marcia clearly did not think much of my idea.

“It’ll be ok. We’ve loosened it enough.” I replied, increasing the level of exertion into pulling the tree. To be such a small tree this thing was really stuck in the ground. At this point, there was no way I was going to admit I could not pull it out so I pulled harder and harder until I was almost to the end of my strength.

If you have ever pulled anything out of the ground, a weed, flower, or a small tree, you know to expect feeling whatever you are pulling on to begin moving slowly up from the dirt. As this feeling is experienced, you know to start reducing the amount of force you are applying so that when it comes out of the dirt the entire root system remains attached to the plant. This is innate knowledge we are all endowed with. Plants always gradually release their hold on the dirt as they are pulled. It’s not an exact science, or something that we’re taught, we men just know it.

At the limit of my strength, standing on a hill, pulling on a small tree, the tree suddenly lets go. Nothing gradual, it let go of the earth entirely in one split second. Apparently, this tree did not have the slow release of the dirt coded in its DNA. Everything suddenly looked as if I were moving at light speed. My body was still visibly normal but all of my surroundings seemed blurred because of how fast I was moving. Then with a teeth-vibrating thud, I hit the ground flat on my back, head downhill from my feet. “Man that hurt” was the first thought that hit my mind, and in the same instant, “Shit, I’m still moving.” With my head pointing downhill, stopped, flat on my back, my legs and lower body are continuing to move down the hill.

“Should I try to stop? Maybe I can force myself to turn to one side to change the momentum?” Random thoughts ran through my head. “How long has it been since I actually did any tumbling? Will my body survive?”

My feet continued their momentum until I was conscious they were above my head, and then in less than two seconds from the time the tree let go I have fallen backwards on my back, continued into a reverse roll, and landed on my knees, the tree in my hand. I started laughing. Marcia, laughing so hard she could hardly speak asked, “You fool, are you alright?” She continued laughing. “I was worried for a minute you were going to roll all the way to the creek.” She said, wiping the tears from her eyes.

“Fat boys won’t roll that far, but they will roll a little.” I told her as we walked laughing, back up the hill to plant the last tree for the day.


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