Monday, January 28, 2013

The Tree Joyce Kilmer Never Met

“Out, Damn Stump!” I swung again, aiming the mattock at the only visible remnant of the Brazilian pepper tree I had cut down over thirteen years ago. I sweltered for hours back then, digging out the base of the huge, invasive pepper tree that dominated the walking path through my planned garden. The invasive Brazilian Peppertree is of the few trees the government wants you to take out, no permit needed! I was more than happy to oblige.

I dug to where I could stand in the trench around the tree stump up to my knees, but, try as I might, I could not budge the huge stump. I had used a chain saw to cut the pesky, unwanted tree down to size. It took me hours just to cut and drag away the limbs that spread over the path. The depth of the root system mocked me, no matter how deeply I dug around it. I dug, cut roots, and pried constantly, but to no avail. There was always an unseen root I couldn't sever to free the burdensome stump from its commanding location in the middle of my planned walkway.

After three days of digging, I stood in the trench around the firmly rooted stump, my shoulders even with the top of the visible remnant of the formidable tree. I could not break through the incredible root system that buried itself into Mother Earth as if to say, “We are one: you will not win!” Digging was simply not the answer.

I went to my garage and rummaged through my cans of chemicals, intent on killing this thing I could not defeat with an ax or a saw. But I would win, come hell or high water. I returned with a battery powered drill and a huge auger bit that allowed me to open the stump as a magician might open a window to another world. Mother nature never counted on Makita drills and human ingenuity. Or the ounce of pure weed killer I poured directly into the the circular wound I inflicted on my now defenseless adversary. One tap wouldn't do, I thought, boring five more deep holes into the trunk. Using an old kitchen funnel, each new avenue into the heart of the tree got a full load of weed killer. Now, I thought, we'll see who wins!

Every visitor's trip through our garden was prefaced with a warning not to trip over the stump that protruded defiantly in the middle of the path, receding ever so slowly each passing year. Rot finally weakened the stump. It actually moved when I kicked it. It took a half-hour of solid work to bust out all the old rotted roots, looking like a huge molar that needed a gigantic root canal. I filled my wheel barrow with dried, rotted roots, some as large as my thigh. I was left with a hole that belied the stubbornness and tenacity of the Peppertree that once stood there. No sign of the valiant struggle. I feel like I should commemorate the battle the tree put up in its fight to survive. Perhaps a marker of some sort, just not another tree. Especially not a Peppertree.

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