If a Tree Falls in the Woods, continued...
Dealing With The Tree
(This is the fourth part of an account of our cottage vacation in July 2002. Click here for Part One, the beginning of this year's adventures. The full saga actually started in July, 2001, when we inherited a run down shack in the Québec woods.)
My nephew Todd’s summer holiday started off badly, and got worse. The first three days were spent beside Lucie’s hospital bed. She had developed a serious throat infection which needed intravenous treatment.
Todd had planned two projects for his time at the lake: he was going to re-shingle his parents’ cottage, and Heather and I were paying him to build some stairs for us. Now, with Lucie in hospital, the available time to do all this was being severely compressed.
The minute she was discharged, Todd was out behind our cottage taking measurements for the stairs. Reynald, Lucie’s father, was with him a tall, broadfaced bear of a man who moved confidently up and down the steep slope, holding the tape and discussing the project with Todd in French a sharp Gaspé form of Jouale, of which to this point I understood not a word.
“Todd, while you’re here, I wonder if you and Reynald would look at this tree.”Todd translated, and Reynald glanced up. The tree loomed over him, its dying branches out of sight high above.
“C’est pas mort.” he pronounced.
Reynald said something. Todd translated.
“He says, ‘You want it down, he’ll take it down.’”
Soon the saw was biting into the tree. Todd removed a single board from a handrail built into a steep section of the forest path.
“So, you think Reynald can drop it in that narrow opening?” I asked.
Which was good, because the location was ideal. Nothing but dead brush. I could take my time later on, cutting away the branches and slicing the massive trunk into firewood.
Cra-a-a-a-a-c-cckkkkk!Slowly it began to move.
In the wrong direction.
The four of us, pushing the enormous trunk with all our might, had absolutely no effect.
Majestically, gaining speed, it flowed like an unspeakably huge hammer towards the cottage.
Not the cottage, not the cottage, please!
CRASH!Somebody said, “Oh my God.”
I sat down right where I was in the rocks and twigs and leaves of the forest floor, and just stared. Months later in my dreams a great tree would continue to rush silently toward my cottage roof. Again, and again.
How he got there I’ll never know, but Reynald was on top of the cottage in an instant. The tree was lying across the end of the roof, it’s upper branches caught in the trees that stand on the other side. Like an ancient warrior in battle, his broadsword a screaming chainsaw, he cut off one limb then another, all the while kicking at the main trunk, until the whole huge carcass rumbled off the cottage and onto the ground below.
My roof my newly-shingled roof was now exposed, cracked and torn, a great gash open over the bedroom.
When I could stand up, I went down to the house to see the extent of the damage. In addition to the roof, one corner of the wall was cracked and splintered, but the frame was still sound. The entire building had shifted on its foundation, however, about an inch.
Inside, every loose book and object had crashed to the floor.
It rained that night. I moved all the furniture out of our bedroom, and set out pots under the gash in the roof.
After The Fall
Two things were immediately clear:
Later that day we all sat together over a beer, and Reynald said to me speaking slowly and in his best French, to be sure I understood You were right, the tree was rotten, and it would certainly have come down during a storm.
Poor Todd felt a lot of responsibility for what had happened, and (generously helped by Ross and Tyler) he laboured from dawn to dusk for the next couple of days, tearing away all the distressed wood from roof and walls, then replacing it with the new material that our favourite building supply store rushed up to us the next morning.
Meanwhile, with all the furniture out of the bedroom, and as soon as the hammering and sawing was done, I completely painted the room.
Next: “Epilogue”.... click here to continue