Pining On

Third base died from being girdled by all those clothes lines. We sawed it off right above the wires. That was when I was in high school. Sometime when I was gone the stump rotted off and was replaced with a post. One summer night in 1989 or 1990 during a thunderstorm the old walnut was hit by a bolt of lightning. I remember the storm because it hit in the middle of the night. While the lightning struck I swear I was elevated a foot above the bed I was laying in from the shear fear it instilled in me. The longest, loudest lightning strike I had ever experienced I thought it wasn’t going to end. I remember commenting on it to the stay at gone mom who only grumbled and went back to sleep. I only wished I’d looked out the window directly above my head and had seen the scene. It must have been one hell of a show.

In the morning the trees told the tale. According to the missing bark, lightning had traveled down the side of the old walnut in three streaks. When it had arrived at the number nine wire only one steak finished on into the ground. The other two streaks followed the wire around the triangle to the second base pine and the third base post then on down into the ground. The passing current had exploded the post, splitting it lengthwise into three or four sticks with the wire the only thing holding the upper end together. The longest wire to the east pine was no longer attached for lack of use when the lightning made it’s rounds, saving the eastern pine and possibly saving me from levitating completely away that night. I have often wondered if that is what ultimately led to second base’s demise. Or was it my nails?

I know pine trees were not indigenous to the area so their demise may have been predetermined upon planting them here. That aside they certainly flourished here for what had to be a long time given the girth and height of the trunks they’ve left behind. I’ve personally known them for over fifty years. Not counting the third base pine that we’d determined was killed by being wire girdled years earlier the second base pine was the first to show the symptoms of whatever killed the pine trees on this farm. The needles on the lower branches started to turn brown during the course of the year. At first I thought the culprit was a swing rope girdling the one branch so I sawed it off beyond where the swing was attached. Then the next one up showed the same symptoms.

Within a couple years the whole tree had succumbed to the browning needles. About that time the pine east of the house was starting to show brown needles on it’s lower branches. As was Dad’s tree up north on the hill by the headlands. Within a couple more years they were all dead. Today not a needle is left on any of the pine trees’ branches. Most of the trunks are missing bark. Owls and red tailed hawks still love to perch on the trees’ upper bows  even without the needles and maybe because the needles are missing. Occasionally I’ll see a turkey vulture or two on the one up north on the hill in the field, aka Dad’s tree. Last winter a couple of bald eagles were spotted more than once using that often utilized perch. One snow white on it’s head the other not so white.



A Solid Base

First base was a mulberry tree. Actually it was a mulberry bush that was never cut. If you graze off or cut down a mulberry tree suckers grow out from around the stump. Enough suckers to call it a bush. First base was originally a bush  made up of at least six sucker branches that had grown into a tree. I say at least six because only six trunks are there now. Not all suckers survive to tree hood. This “Tree With All The Trunks” as we called it was a male mulberry tree. The males put on no fruit so they tend to not proliferate without a female nearby. To this day I target the females first for removal of rouge trees. If I see berries I mark them with a red X with spray paint to remind me in off seasons which to expend my time on first.

Between first base and third base ran another number nine wire clothes line. Third base was the epicenter of Mom’s number nine wire clothes lines. One ran to a third pine east of the house. One ran to first base. One ran to the pine tree that was second base. One ran to that old walnut tree that I’d mentioned in the last post that I’d found Dad’s hammer by all those years ago. From the old walnut tree the number nine wire clothes line ran back to second base forming an irregular triangled clothes line. The old walnut tree, second base and third base (the baseball diamond pines) were the only trees with more than one line attached.

Way off on the east side of the house (the ball diamond was south of the house) stood the largest pine that was the terminus of the longest number nine wire clothes line. Halfway between third base and the east pine a two by four board about seven feet long propped up the wire. It was stapled on the top end and simply stood on the ground, with the tension of the wire holding it upright. It would lean it’s top to the east or west, never standing strait up and we would mischievously bounce on it back and forth until scolded by mother or an older sister.

One would think that with all those clothes lines criss- crossing the infield, the outfield and the foul ball zone over beyond third that we wouldn’t play baseball on laundry days. With twelve children in the family laundry day was three days a week. We would play even then. Of course the laundry was one of the best infield players there was. Short of pop flying a ball over it or grounding one under it you could never make it to first without being easily thrown out. Unless the ball was caught in the pocket of a fitted sheet or a pillow case. Then the batter had a running chance. But don’t try to slide into first, tree bases don’t budge.



Diamond Pines

The pine tree. Second base? From yesterday’s post? I remember stealing Dads hammer and nails from his “shop”, an old dirt floored garage that may have been a carriage house back before the automobile, and driving quite a few nails into the old pine before moving on and loosing the hammer when I either ran out of nails or became bored with tree nailing. The reason I remember it was I had to go find Dad’s hammer for him when he next needed it. That meant retracing the steps I took losing it with my immediately older brother helping in the remembering part. Starting with all the nails I’d driven into that old dirt floor. After the pine tree we found it by the old walnut directly on the other side of yesterday’s post’s red cedar.

Of course the red cedar hadn’t been transplanted yet back when I went on my tree nailing spree. The cedar may be nail free. But I doubt it given all the nieces and nephews who followed. Not to mention the three children we’re raising and the three we’ve already raised here, one of them a boy like me. Fifty or sixty other cedars have been transplanted around the building site as windbreaks since this cedar came in from the road. Some by me in high school but most by my younger brother after I’d left home. We would find the cedars growing wild along roadsides in ditches in the surrounding countryside when they were little enough to spade out by hand and carry home in a car trunk. Now they’re two and three stories high and simply beautiful.

As is that pine tree. I know it’s dead but the standing dead tree that’s lost the needles but not the branches has a beauty all it’s own. Occasionally a hawk or an owl can be seen resting on it’s bows and taking in the scene. Once upon a time it was part of a three way number nine wire clothes line that ran from it to the previously mentioned old walnut the over to another pine of the same genus (aka third base) and then back to second base,  the pine tree first mentioned. Off towards the house was home base. Right in front of the oft broken hall window. Until they put the new basement in, then we’d break the new basement window directly below the hall window. Today a sugar maple from grandpa’s yard up in Harlan stands on home base and balls don’t make it past.