By Stephen Harris
February 3, 2014
I look out my window and there are those tall, dark, menacing figures in the dawn’s frozen shadows. I see they haven’t gone away during the night.
I don’t want them out there staring back at me, mocking me. I can see they’re going nowhere, so I’m going to have to take matters into my own hands.
They were so cute in the beginning, the double row of cedar trees that I started planting years ago in the backyard.
When I returned to the hometown I was surprised to find during that first spring that cedar sprouts were popping up around the backyard. I didn’t know where the sprouts came from, as there were no cedar trees nearby. I’d never before had so many wild trees just sprouting up in the yard.
I had some space to experiment, so I let them grow. I was surprised when they did; I had never had much luck with growing things, especially trees.
As years passed I got more sprouts. So I started transplanting them along a border where three had come up naturally. And the transplants grew, too. Eurika. I’d become a horticulturist.
Well, not exactly. But I was so thrilled that I had discovered myself capable of getting something to grow — a green thumb I do not have. So I began a cedar sanctuary. Who needs those costly Leland firs from the store?
Christmas trees, I thought. Dad cut a wild cedar in the woods for Christmas one time. But the Boss of the House these days will not settle for an ordinary cedar for the holiday, though one year she did string lights on a little cedar out back. People saw the lighted tree and complimented her.
My cedar transplants were as much as chest high when a neighbor commented dubiously that, “those things get so big.” I’d seen some big cedars in the woods, but they didn’t look that big, not among the oaks and maples. I’d keep things under control, I thought.
As more cedar sprouts started coming up, I didn’t have the heart to cut them down. I kept transplanting them. I was getting quite a collection. I let a couple die in a pot one year before I could transplant them. Nevertheless, I had eight growing. And I kept transplanting more.
I began noticing birds flying into the cedars at dusk. They had found a good, safe place to bed down for the night. I once hit a baseball into a thick cedar, and I about never found that ball hidden among the many branches and needles.
One year as I was trimming the oldest cedars I got to marveling at how much faster they were growing. I guessed they were 20 feet tall. Surely they’ve matured, I thought.
Wrong. They kept growing. And spreading. One spring I noticed I could not mow between them, they had grown so much.
“That wood should be worth something,” someone once said. Mom’s old hope chest was made of cedar, and she thought it was so valuable. When I was young her cedar chest so fragrant. I still have that chest, but its unique, fresh scent is not so strong these days.
So I asked a woodworker one time if he might like some cedar wood should I cut down a tree or two. He wasn’t interested. So much for having a gold mine growing in my backyard.
Meanwhile, those trees just kept on growing. They’re not so cute now. They’re at least 30 feet tall. I can’t see anything for them; they’re blocking my view. Their shade is killing the grass. The branches are drooping, the needles thinning. And they’re getting ugly.
As I study them from the house the trees are just daring me: “Ha-ha! You can’t do anything to us now. You should have done us in when you had the chance. But you put it off too long, we’ve gotten too big, and you can’t stop us now. We’re taking over, you foolish little old man. Ha-ha!”
I sit here by my stove rebuked and warming by my fire. It’s an old wood stove. It burns wood.
I look over to the chainsaw that I calmly sat down to warm because it doesn’t start good when it’s cold. It’s all gassed and oiled up and sports a shiny new chain. The man at the store in Clingman said he’d put on a chain that will bite real good into wood, especially the soft wood of a cedar.
And I’m about to head out into this chill and show those smart-aleck cedars who’s boss. Eight down, only a dozen more to cut.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.