Lazy Summer Days Spent Lolling On Custom Lawn Furniture

This post is excerpted from “Jun-e-or” a book of my “Recollections of Life in the 1940’s and 50’s,” available from Amazon.com

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There is something about winter that sets me into recalling times from the past. In early 2010 I posted several stories about my Grampa Jim.  This year, I will do the same. Here is the first of a series.

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Lazy Summer Days Spent Lolling On Custom Lawn Furniture

Every summer, Dad packed us up and took us to the farm in Michigan to live with Mom’s dad Grampa. That twenty-acre spread like seemed a vast wilderness at the time. Gramps’s house was set back from the road and trees lined each side of the drive giving the feel of going through a tunnel. Three tall cedar trees stood in a row with two pear trees next to the ditch. They hid the house from the road.

The front door faced the road, and served to let a breeze flow through the house. Gramps never did finish building the front steps. The main entrance was from the side door facing the yard at the end of the drive. A huge willow tree, opposite the living room window, filled the side yard with shade. The weeping boughs nearly touched the ground, and my arms reached less than half way around its trunk. A few feet away stood a very mature mulberry tree that appeared tiny next to the willow

In early summer, the birds came to eat mulberries.  I climbed the low branches and sat in the tree with them. Mom knew what I was doing because my lips and hands were purple. The low branches were easy to climb, not like the tall willow whose first branch was many feet above my head. Dad used a ladder to climb up to that branch to make us a swing from a recycled tire from his 1929 Buick

The outhouse stood across the yard from the mulberry. Grampa Jim didn’t have running water, nor a bathtub or toilet. The outhouse was the third point on a trapezoidal yard formed by the side door, and the two trees.

Grampa Jim had a unique set of lawn furniture sliced from the trunk of a huge tree.  The Table was twenty-four inches in diameter, and just as tall.  The chairs were slightly smaller in diameter and were cut to form a seat with a backrest. The set was old, and gray with no signs of bark on the wood.

I spent endless hours playing on, and around that furniture. Sometimes, I sat on a chair and watched the big black ants run crazy patterns all over the table. Often, I tried counting the rings, but got lost in the weathered and worn grooves of the cut surface.

On the very hot listless days of summer, Grampa Jim, and his buddy Mr. Toth sat on the tree furniture in the shade drinking a beer. They chatted and smoked; Grampa dragged a hand rolled cigarette of Bull Durham while his friend puffed a corncob pipe filled with Prince Albert. Often, I sat with them and listened. They spoke in Hungarian, and I did not recognize many of their words, but I understood the gist of their thoughts.

I wondered then, and I still do now, if the table and chairs all came from one tree.  If they did, the tree had to be magnificent. I asked myself, how tall was that tree? How old was it? Why was it cut down? Did it fall down, or did it die of natural causes? All I know is that I loved sitting and playing on that furniture.

The Gift (A serial, part 5)

The Gift (A serial, Part 5)

The scoot home took a long time because the Covert farm was a long way from the town where Morty lived. He deliberately kept Skye out of hyper-drive, and drove slowly to keep the little tree from tearing off. They talked as he drove. Connie told him about when he was a seed, and grew quickly into a sapling. Farmer Jim re-planted him into the field where his great, great, great, great-grandfather grew up. He survived a drought, the heat of summer, and cold winters. When it snowed, his limbs sagged to the ground.

Connie’s favorite job was to host families of birds. The cardinals and chickadees picked his boughs to build their nests. They collected material from all over the farm. Red Cardinal, and his wife Rosy made hundreds of trips to the tree. Red brought pieces thread, and tiny twigs, one by one, and Rosy wove them into place. She went to the pond to make mud to hold it all together. They picked a spot about half way up Connie’s trunk in a spot that hid the nest from view.

Connie told Morty how he loved to watch the cardinals flying back and forth to feed their babies. The babies slept between meals. They chirped loudly when their parents came with food. Once a cat came into the field near Connie. Rosy covered the nest with her body, and spread her wings to hide her chicks.

Red buzzed the cat to get its attention away from the babies. Connie dropped his boughs over the nest to give the birds more protection. They all sat very still while the cat was there. All the trees in the field watched in deadly silence as the cat stalked with his head low, and his shoulders in a hunting crouch. After what seemed like an eternity of stillness and quiet, the cat finally wandered off in another direction.

Morty arrived home after dark. He untied Connie’s branches and set him upright into a bucket of water.

“Tomorrow,” he said, “I will place you into a tree stand, and dress you for the birthday party. Now it is time for all of us to rest.”

To be continued. . . .

The Gift (A serial, part 2)

THE GIFT (A serial, part 2)

Farmer Jim drove the tractor, and Morty sat on the trailer. When they reached the field Morty jumped off. With a saw in his hand he began to search for the perfect tree.

He wanted a shapely tree with branches all around. It could not be too big because his room was small. Morty wandered among the trees searching. Most were already five to six feet high or taller. Many had bare spots and deformed branches. With so many trees picking one was not easy. On the way to the farm, when he flew over the trees on his scooter, they all looked beautiful, but at ground level, they did not look as perfect.

Morty began asking the trees for help. “Please help me find the tree I need,” he said. “I want it to be as tall as I am. It must not be too wide. My tree will have a triangular shape, and full branches all around.” The trees responded by saying they were once exactly like that, two or three years ago.

After searching the forest for a long time, Morty stopped in front of a very tall tree.

The high tree said that he could see over the tops of all the other trees, and could see the tree that Morty wanted. “Follow this line of trees next to me,” the big tree said, “count off twenty trees, turn left, then count another five trees. There, in the center of a small clearing will be the perfect tree.”

“Thanks,” said Morty. He took the tall tree’s directions, and counted the trees as he walked. When he reached number twenty, he turned left and counted five more. There, in the center of a small clearing stood a beautiful spruce tree.

It was blue-green, and perfect. Morty stopped and stood still. He was speechless. He walked around the tree, looking for bare spots. He found none. It was as tall as he was too. The shape was a near-perfect cone. As he walked around the tree, he began talking to himself, “This tree will make a perfect present for my boss’s birthday party.” He admired the tree from all angles and could not find a single flaw. He finally broke his silence and spoke. “I’m Morty Angel, would you like to be my gift to Baby Jesus this year?”

To be continued . . .

The Gift (A serial, part one)

The Covert tree farm stretches across the countryside with pine trees of all sizes. Morty Angel can tell the age of the trees by how tall they are. The trees along the road to the entrance are a good example. Field number one has twelve foot trees. Next, is a field of ten’s then a field eight’s. Occasionally, a field was bare with only stumps protruding from the ground.

Morty came to the sign Covert Tree Farm, Christmas Trees for Sale,next to a road that led into a grove of very old spruce trees.

The tall trees shaded the forest floor, and kept it dark. The driveway was curvy, and made from gravel. Morty could hear birds flitting between trees. Beams of sunshine peeked through the trees. They looked like spotlights shining through onto the dark forest floor. Very little vegetation grew, except ferns; they require little light to survive. Morty steered his Skye Scooter through the forest over the twisty road. He was anxious to find a tree that would serve as his gift to the Boss. He saw an opening of intense light that led into a glorious meadow. This is where the tree farmer lived in a log home.

Another sign announced that parking was in the field behind the barn. A sign on the barn stated rules for cutting Christmas trees.

Rule One: Cut the tree at the ground. Do not cut in the middle of a tree.

Rule two: Use only the saw provided.

Rule Three: Bring your tree to the barn for wrapping.

Prices are $8.00 per foot.

Next to the barn, a tractor hitched to a hay wagon was running and ready to carry visitors to the cutting field. A cow mooed, and a horse whinnied from inside the barn. Chickens wandered freely around the horse and cow in the stalls, and in the barnyard pecking for seed. All around the barnyard meadow, there were trees and hills for as far as one can see.

Farmer Jim lives on the tree farm. He raises trees for a living. He sells some trees to visitors at Christmas, and he takes the very large trees to the lumber mill in the town. Farmer Jim always plants replacement trees after cutting a field. In this way, the forest continues to refresh itself. It takes forty to fifty years to grow a tree large enough to sell for lumber. It only takes ten to twelve years to grow a tree large enough for Christmas.

Morty loved scooting out to the Covert Tree farm. It is a beautiful place, peaceful, quiet, and majestic. Morty also loved to talk to the trees. When he was alone in the forest, he would hug the large ones. Farmer Jim never told anyone, but he had one very large field of old trees on his farm. He never cut these trees nor did his father, grandfather or his great-grandfather. Farmer Jim’s great-grandfather told him that the trees in this field were on the farm when he bought it. The trees in that field were very big and old. Some were more than two hundred feet tall, and the trunks were so large that the farmer could not stretch his arms around the base. Morty really loved these trees. The largest tree was several hundred years old. It lived through much of the history of our country. The big tree was a teenager when the very first settlers moved to the valley from the east.

Today, Morty came to the tree farm because he wants to surprise the baby Jesus on his birthday with a spruce tree. Morty will decorate the tree to make it special. He parked his scooter behind the barn, read the rules, picked up a saw, and rode out to the field of trees on the hay wagon.

To be continued….

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