There’s an old joke told by people in this neighborhood about why there’s no old big trees. The punchline is that the original, Scandinavian settlers were loggers who cut them all down.
Out at the back corner of our small city lot stands one that may not date back to that time but is nonetheless a big tree. Must be three feet in diameter at the base, at least fifty feet to the top. Probably second growth. Still growing.
It stands at the very corner of the adjoining lot, at a place where three runs of fence converge. The tree doesn’t care. It recognizes no borders, no city lot lines, certainly no structures as puny as these frail, aging fences. It just keeps growing, and shoving the fences aside. The place where they once met had become a confusion of loose pickets and splayed ends, ripped from the corner post, hanging awkwardly in several directions, the post itself a dozen degrees out of plumb.
My thought was to not fight the mighty old tree but to install a diagonal run of fence between the nearest two unaffected posts, each about six feet away from the trunk, allowing the tree to expand at its pleasure.
Two days ago, taking the trash out to the city containers in the alley, I noticed a truck parked near the big tree. A man with tools was working on the splayed ends of the neighbors two runs of fence. Depositing the trash in the container, I wandered over. “Something tells me I should speak with you”, I said, waving my arms in the direction of my fence.
Nice guy. He left his work momentarily and came over to view the deranged section of fence on my side. He studied on it about three seconds and offered much simpler solution. I make it a practice to never take issue with a man who’s clearly right, and to take advice if it’s sound. I agreed at once.
As he wandered back over to his tools and work, I asked when he might be available to do the work on my side. He mumbled something that sounded like “might as well do it while I’m here”. I thanked him again, gave him my number, asked that he call me when he was done, or just come bang on my front door, so I could write him a check.
After an hour or so, I wandered back into the alley. The truck was gone. My fence stood unrepaired. Dang. Just then, the truck entered the alley from the west end, a few two-by-fours extending over the tailgate. A mid-project run for materials. I asked him if there was anything he needed, a bottle of water; anything. No, he said, and rejoined the task.
Couple more hours. With checkbook and pen at the ready, I was surprised he’d not presented himself for payment. Puzzled, I wandered back to the alley.
The truck was gone again, although I caught sight of my neighbor clipping some of the growth outside her newly repaired fence. Nice job. And next to it, stood mine, upright and freshly reconnected. I asked her if the guy was finished, telling her had he not come to be paid. She said he didn’t want anything for my section; just considered it part of her job.
I had been fussing over solutions for months. And now, in the space of a few hours, the solution had presented itself, along with a guy to do it, and a kind neighbor who found nothing wrong with allowing him to do it on her tab.
Sometimes your cup just runneth over. As a friend of mine is often heard to say, the people are the best part.