Sunday, December 19, 2004
Family Tree, Part 4 (Being A Series Of Random Anecdotes)
I come over to the stump he is touching. My first thought is that he has found something embedded in the wood--an old musket ball from the Revolution maybe. I've read about these things happening in New England. As soon as I say this to my dad, he nods sagely.
"Ayuh, that's true," he says. "A'cawse, since this tree's only about 40 years old and the Revolution was 220 years ago, I'd say whoever fired the gun woulda hadda be one helluva shot."
"How do you know how old this tree is?" I ask, feeling knuckleheaded. At this question, my dad's face drops at the wonder of my stupidity, as if I had just asked him what kind of tree maple syrup came from.
"It's all right here." He is pointing to the rings, circling the soft yellow interior, swirling around the soul of the great pine--roughly one ring for each year of its existence. "It's had a hard life," he muses. "Lookit how thin these rings were--it was pretty sick when it was young," his finger slides along the rings, like a record needle playing out the song of this tree's life.
"Here it got better, right here where the rings get fatter." He stabs at a feeble ring right in the center. "This right here is from the forest fire of 1966; all the younger trees that survived it have this ring--the fire stunted their growth."
He stops, peers, then points to a prominent ring. "That there's a good one," he says assuredly.
"Why?" I ask.
"I reckon that's the year you was born," he says, suddenly tugging my cap...