by Robert Adcox
I had a great childhood. When I was seven or so, I used to watch with fascination as my dad built things with lumber and nails. Not that I can remember what it was that he usually built for his weekend projects, but I knew that all of that hammering could only be a good thing. I guess that’s why I took it upon myself, over the course of two years or so, to get in some hammer practice of my own. Conveniently enough, I had the perfect venue: an old, dead oak tree which sat smack dab in the middle of the back yard. Not a whole tree, mind you. Just the lower half of what must have been a magnificent tower of branches and leaves about the time Henry Ford began scheming on how best to build a car.
By the time I tired of this early bout of OCD, I had most certainly affixed several hundred nails into that old oak. This phase of my childhood was surpassed by the next one: firecrackers. Yes, those wondrous explosives guaranteed to make mothers race to their Valium bottles were introduced to me by my older brother and my dad, who were busy planting them into the poor old tree fragment for the expressed purpose of blowing termites out of their nests at rather high velocities. Keep in mind that this occurred on a November afternoon, when the air is very dry. That’s important.
Somewhere between the third and the thirtieth such commando raid, mom called us all in for supper.
Now, we all know that the days grow short in November. We don’t all know, however, that firecrackers can make even a dark evening light if they’re employed just so. We discovered that when mom brought it to our attention thus: “GEORGE! THE BACK YARD IS ON FIRE!”
Naturally, such information is worth more than gold to a twelve year old boy whose idea of excitement is getting permission to watch the late show on Friday night. While mom called the fire department and the neighbors came over to inform us that the back yard was, in fact, on fire, dad busied himself with the garden hose, spraying it on the trees surrounding the towering inferno in a valiant effort to keep the flames from spreading to the rest of our trees.
Firefighters, who arrived twenty minutes later, ran down the hill with the hose from the truck, but not before other firefighters could begin cutting into the burning tree with chainsaws.
Then it happened.
The whir of the first saw was quickly supplanted by the sound of a nail from 1969 going “PING”, which, of course, led to a broken chain and a string of words which truly boggled my young, impressionable mind. Firefighter-with-chainsaw number two began cutting into the tree from a different angle, only to be met again with “whirrrrrr-PING”. I, of course, was met with several words which made me want to go to my happy place and stay there. By this time, the firefighter with the hose was pumping water onto the tree while the other two yelled at him to quit it until they could cut into the tree to expose the fire within. With both chainsaws now repaired, we were all treated to “whirrrrr-PING-PING”. That’s right. Yours truly managed, through his childhood antics, to break not one but four chainsaw blades in the first-ever accidently but somewhat on purpose tree-spiking.
The hose guy finally got the fire out. In fact, he also managed to water not only our but even the Simmon’s back yard that chilly November evening. Mom endured yet another day with her otherwise all-male family. The neighbors had a story to share at work the next day. And I was encouraged by dad to pursue hobbies involving spray paint and glue.
Many years have passed since that cold autumn night, but it will forever be remembered by me as the night I nailed it.