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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This month:

Talking Trees

A Tale Of Two Benches – My Design Process

The Ultimate Pallet Wood Project - Part 1

Pallet Project Safety

Talking Trees

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Dad and I were taking a break on the shady side of the barn. It was only eight o'clock, but it was already so hot the birds had quit singing, crickets were quiet, the air was still and heavy like a hot wet blanket. We had been hauling hay bales for the past couple of hours.

Dad was drinking water from an old mayonnaise jar, I was chewing on a piece of straw. Gazing aimlessly across the pasture, I suddenly chuckled a bit, a little smile crossing my face. My Dad asked, "What's so funny?"

"Oh, I was just thinking about yesterday when we were in town and Old Henry crossed the street right in front of us."

"Yeah, what's so funny about that?"

"Well, he's weird… you know..."

"What do mean ‘weird'?"

Old Henry was old. So everyone called him Old Henry. He had been old for a long time. A gray, thin, energetic black man, Old Henry was always dressed in a suit, summer or winter, and he carried a ragged old leather satchel. Stenciled in big flaking white letters on the side, "Hemrod Cure $5.00."

"Dad, geez, he carries around that old satchel with the word ‘hemorrhoid' misspelled… and who is gonna buy medicine from that guy anyway?"

"Well I don't know son, he's been walking around with that satchel as long as I can remember, so somebody must be buying the stuff."

Figure 1 - The Sweetgum tree leaf

It got quiet again. I could hear a fly buzz past, heading, no doubt, for the cows languidly chewing their hay. I went back to my piece, too. Dad took another swig of water. A few minutes passed, and then he asked, "What do you think of that sweetgum tree down there?" He nodded towards the north where the tree stood bordering the creek.

"I dunno…"

My Dad didn't say anything, so I thought I better…

"It's pretty… I like it."

"Uh huh." My Dad wasn't real talkative.

A few minutes later he nodded toward the south where a group of pine trees grew along a fence line and asked, "What do you think of that big pine tree?"

"I dunno… why are you asking me this stuff?"

Figure 2 - The Long Needle
Pine tree "leaf"

"Well, do you think that pine tree is weird?"

"No… why?"

"Well you said you like the sweetgum, and the pine tree is different, so I figured you thought it was weird."

"No, its just different."

"Kind of like Old Henry, huh son?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well that pine tree and that sweet gum are the same."

"No they're not."

"Sure they are… they both got roots in the ground, right?" I nodded. "They both got trunks and limbs and leaves, right?"

"No Dad, the pine tree has got needles."

"But what's a needle son? It's just a leaf that's shaped different. It still takes in sunlight and air…"

"Carbon dioxide" I corrected, somewhat smugly. I was a smart-alec even then.

"Yeah… and the pine tree has cones and the sweet gum has sweet gum balls, but they're kind of the same thing, too… right?

Figure 3 – Different... but the same...

"I guess so."

"You reckon, son, if the trees could talk the sweet gum would say the pine tree was weird?" At this point experience and intuition told me I better keep my mouth shut. He went on, "Yep, they're from the same family, those two trees… and all the other trees, too. Just like you and Henry are from the same family. Different, sure, but the same in lots of ways."

Our roots do share the same earth. I miss you Henry.

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