You are what you write. Illusion and Reality...I reside in between. Where are you?
|This happened yesterday morning and it was too good to not write about it in nonfiction detail.
The Death of an Old Tree
Beside the road and gate, our estate has natural jungle across the front and down the east side of the property all the way to the lagoon. On the west side, from the lagoon back up to the gate is a fence with a mass of palms and greenery masking the house from the neighbor's undeveloped property, a similar plot running from highway to the lagoon.
Several weeks ago, the neighbor, Mr.Tom's worker-gardener took his machete and chopped a lot of bushes and small trees down on Mr.Tom's side of the our fence. The fence looked a little more open. Our side has many plants, but doesn't cover 100%.
Then on Friday, September 6, (With some instruction, I'm sure.) Mr. Tom's gardener took a burning torch and proceeded to set alight all the now dried foliage that he had chopped. He went from our gate corner all the way to the lagoon, setting all the dry material on fire. And his job was done . . . What could go wrong?
I came outside for the dogs and discovered fire burning just outside our fence. It was burning in both directions. I had a moment of panic and then ran for the hose. The water valve had to be turned on. Then the hose had to be uncoiled and stretched out to reach before I could water and spray our trees, vines and bushes. The stupid hose kinked more than once and had to be re positioned. I discovered two places where dry grass and leaves were burning on our side of the fence. Being Belizean, Mr. Tom's gardner was surprised and whacked at the flames with a rake. I soaked everything with the hose. The next day I ran the sprinkler, moving every twenty minutes to cover the entire length of our wilting fence line. I did more watering on Sunday. I noticed that some logs were still smoking over in the neighbor's dead, mostly dry or burned lowish ditch.
By Tuesday I found the damage from the fire heat had scorched a number of branches on our 8'-10' high palms and all the vines were turning brown and some of the small leafy trees were wilting. The fence was looking more bare and exposed.
Now at this point, early in the morning--- I saw some small open flames at the base of the biggest, highest tree that is right across the fence from our kitchen windows. This old tree reaches 30' to 40' with a healthy crown of leaves, the highest in our area. The new tall growth springs from a thick ancient trunk that has a dead branchless stump that reaches about 20' to 25' up to a thick broken top that leans slightly toward our house. Wow, I thought, that old wood must be still smoldering like a campfire that wasn't put out properly. I'll burn its self out.
On Wednesday I didn't see any more flames and just a tiny trace of smoke. Our fence line looked worse. Oh, also I must add that on the burning day, the fire did wrap around the front corner of our property and burned behind the power pole and trash-container enclosure. I had quickly extinguished those flames with my trusty water hose. It could have been worse.
NOW---on Thursday morning (today) about 5:30AM, it was barely daylight and I saw much larger flames at the base of the big old tree and showing up on both sides of the base and much more smoke. On a closer examination, I determined that the inside of the ancient trunk was fully engaged with fire. The flames were 12" to 20". This was serious. That monster tree could come crashing down taking out the fence and reach onto the roof over our kitchen!
Fully prepared with a cane to fend off Mr. Tom's biting dogs, I marched down to their house, called out "Hello the house. Hello." They were home, the dogs barked, and Mrs. Tom forced the shrill animals to stay in the house. She came out to see what I wanted. I explained that the big old tree was seriously burning and since it leaned toward our house they were officially notified that the tree must be brought down immediately and directed into their property. Mrs. Tom was slightly dubious, but understanding and agreed that they would check it. Mr. Tom stood silent in the doorway and never spoke. I emphasized that this had to be taken care of immediately. It was 8 AM.
Here's what happened . . .
Maybe 15 minutes later, Tom's car drove down (it's about a city block) and observed the burning tree trunk for a few minutes, and then left.
Twenty minutes later, Tom drove back (I don't think he's up to walking much). He got out of the car and approached the tree with a fire extinguisher. He sprayed the tree with the contents in a great white cloud that lasted maybe two minutes. He drove back to his house.
Then Tom and wife actually walked back to look more seriously at the burning tree, which proceeded to produce more smoke and some flames appeared at least seven or eight feet up in the trunk. Old tree was not going to give up that easily. I think it was quite stimulated by the fire extinguisher.
At 9AM Tom returned, with their worker. He sent the young man to the lagoon with a bucket. (That's about a half-block walk) One bucket of water was carried back and dumped on the fire. The steam lasted about 30 seconds. Smoke came out of the trunk about 8' up and heat waves were visible. Old tree was not happy.
A second worker arrived and now two men are carrying buckets of water to throw on the burning tree. After maybe three round trips with buckets, the two added a tub of water to carry between them. The tub is awkward at best when carrying a full bucket in the other hand. That's a lasting image.
About 9:30AM a big truck arrived with a crew of workers and perhaps a supervisor-leader who actually knew what they should be doing. His slick, shaved skull made him look impressive as he waved and gestured his instructions. I must say that Mr. Tom responded with amazing speed, not often seen in our rural Belize. Of course these responders would not come cheap, so what goes around, comes back to bite you.
A weighted rope is thrown up high until they catch one of the strong new branches. I notice that all the crown leaves have turned brown. The heat is shriveling them. A man with a chain saw begins to cut the heavy root tops far out from the tree base. Another man chops with a machette at smaller roots and the outside of the trunk.The workers continue with their bucket-tub routine. Tom drives up to observe and stands, leaning against his car.
The rope is anchored to a pulley far out and then the rope is stretched to the back of the truck. Maybe they have a winch, it's hard to see. Chain saw cutting continues and more water is thrown on the steaming trunk. Another man dumps water far out on the roots. I guess to soften their grip on the earth.
By 10:40AM, after eight or ten attempts, a second weighted rope is thrown to join the first. The chain saw now cuts into the trunk especially on the old wood side. The buckets and tub are retired. The supervisor yells and the final chain saw cuts deep with a great whining noise .
At 10:55AM the great old tree gives up maybe one hundred years of life and comes crashing down exposing a blackened hollow root circle. The living branches crack and tear into the dirt of the shallow ditch. It falls parallel to the fence, well into Tom's land.
There are cheers from the men. I go to the fence to take photos and yell, "Good job, guys!" They grin and wave.
The saws cut some of the corpse apart and then the men load up and everyone leaves. So much activity and then with one, seconds-long, wrenching groan-- it stops. With proper pruning the roots could have produced another beautiful tree, but no longer. Nothing is left except the piled debris that resembles a very destructive war zone.
Our fence line will recover with lots of water and some loving care. The view from the kitchen window is changed forever.
Like the old tree, this story is finished.
Thursday, September 12, 2019