"Wood heats you up three times: when you drop the trees, when you cut it up, and when you burn it." Actually, there are many other ways that trees have warmed me.
"Wood heats you up three times: when you drop the trees, when you cut it up, and when you burn it."
Actually, there are many other ways that trees have warmed me.
Some trees I've known for a long time, almost to the point where they seem to have a personality, a separate identity. And when I walk in their woods, I look up at them with a feeling nearing friendship.
Others, thousands in fact, have fallen to the chainsaw. Then each tree was chunked and split with sledge and wedge and carried into the house for the fire.
What a pleasure in winter to have a fire and stare into the flame.
And in the summer when we camp, the fire is the center. We sit around it and talk. Around us is darkness and the nighttime star-field against the sky.
Trees. They are always within reach. Almost like climbing without height.
This chair I'm sitting in is wood. It was part of a living, breathing tree. So was this desk. And this paper. The newspaper. And we call it "The Paper." It was squeezed from the center of trees too.
Not to mention this house with wooden walls. And just outside, trees push out their limbs. I can reach one outside the window. And it can touch another, and so on as they stretch out down the street, all the way to the edge of town where they meet the woods. From there they cover the hills, on and on.
When we start up a chainsaw in March and drop a maple, the sap almost gushes out of the cut. It's sweet. There is no doubt that sap is the tree's blood, the way it runs.
In town there are a lot of exotic trees, brought in and used as ornamentals. These little trees are brought in from all over the world. Foreign trees with weird names and strange leaves; primped, pretty trees.
Exotic trees are like those little strange dogs, that we see on someones lap or at a Bench show, bred for specific purpose, the whims of man.
Why do we have to import trees? Aren't our native trees beautiful enough?
Back in the woods, other types of trees, our kind go wild, spawned from a utilitarian race, a Darwinian paradigm.
Those trees make our wildlife. Those trees make the land green and all sorts of colors in the fall when the bounty is dumped, hard with the promise of the future.
Some individual trees, in forgotten woodlots, have grown and thrived. Their human owners have been born, lived and died. And still the tree grows.
And other owners have come and gone. And still the tree grows, with big hunks for scaly bark. Huge knarled deep roots. Three men can't stretch their arms around the trunk and touch their fingers.
One of my first tree-stand trees, a big white pine, is dead and all but gone now. It had been hit by lightning and the charred wood is still visible. Though it survived a logging, being passed over because of its poor shape, it couldn't keep up with the rapid forest succession of the young maples.
The treestand pine tree's top had been blown off. My boys climbed it when they were little guys and began bow hunting. It was still green then. The pungent smell of pine from that tree's pitch permeated our camouflage. Hung in the air as a backdrop as we laughed.
But no longer.
Other favorite trees, a huge strong ash back from the corner of an old field, and a wind-blown hemlock, perched on top of a Pennsylvania hollow to name a couple, are now on posted land. I hunted out of them for years. You could say I got to know them. But new owners came. Now, it feels like old friends moved away. And I'd feel guilty if I climbed them again without new permission.
Woodlots have a habit of changing hands. Hunters have to learn to say goodbye to their favorite trees, even though they are still there -- at least we think so.
And turkey hunters have their favorite trees, maybe at the edge of a hollow or out on the point of ridge spur. They are placed "just right" so we set up with our backs against their wide trunks. Maybe we set a small log there, or a rock for a seat. Once in while we come across some other hunter's tree and see the telltale seat and pause for a moment to ponder his setup.
There's something about feeling the bark again in a favorite treestand and to those of us who spend a lot of time in the trees, when we meet again on the first hunt of the season, and reach up for the first limb, it's almost like shaking hands.
And we are warmed in another couple of ways as we climb.
Oak Duke is publisher of the Daily Reporter in Wellsville, N.Y. Contact him at email@example.com