With The Willow

Copyright 1999 by Lin Stone

It wasn't fair I thought as I pulled into the yard.

Daddy's garden was bigger than any I had ever planted.

His yard was mowed, the house painted and flowers lined all the walks he laid by himself.

It wasn't fair.

It just flat, wasn't fair.

Forty years had gone by since I began measuring myself against him, but even after triple by-pass surgery, Daddy was still going strong. At 72, Daddy came out on the porch with his eye undimmed. Just for a moment, I hated to get out of the truck and wrestle with the problem of admitting once again that Daddy was still the better man.

Besides raising vegetables for sale, Daddy cut wood for a living. Rick after rick stacked in the yard showed he did it well. Charles and John had been part of the business for awhile. But they could not keep up with the old man. They hated him for it. "He didn't beat just one of us at a time, Tink, he had to beat both of us together. That old man could split more wood than both of us." And he could cut wood faster than they could haul it.

It was August; the fire raged inside the house; Mama shivered upon the bed, covered to her chin. Her "Hello" was merely a grunt in response to mine. I held her hand until the tears kept me from seeing, then went to sit against the wall. Me and Daddy mopped sweat from our brow and drank cold lemonade, eyeing the thermometer that said 110, and still wasn't hot enough to keep Mama warm.

I listened impassively while he told me about his new contract, his truck, his chain saws, his splitting axe, and how many miles some people drove just to get a mess of his beans. I gritted my teeth. He was proud. He had a right to be. I gazed around at the shack he had rebuilt into a home. "And, how are things with you, Tink?"

"I'm getting my health back," I told him. "Yesterday I ran half a mile, and pressed 200."  

"Don't push it," Daddy warned me. "We ain't built the way other people are. Them doctors had a fit when I refused to push myself after the surgery. I kept my own pace. Now there ain't a one of them young fellers that can keep up with me."

I ducked my head, knowing it was all too true.

See if we can't save you $100 or more.
Click on any type of insurance you want to save money on. 
Let the very best insurance quote systems on the web work to SAVE money for YOU on all your insurance needs.

I listened to him for hours. If he wasn't bragging on himself he was complaining about someone else not being able to keep up. At least I never complained, I reminded that competitive little boy inside me. Then Daddy's words jumped out at me. "There's a willow, right down in the water at the bijou's edge that I can't get out by myself. It's too big for me. And I can't get nobody around here to help me get it down."

Too Big?

Too -- Big -- For -- Daddy?

I welcomed the words. I cherished them. I glanced down at my hands. For the first time in years, they weren't knotted up when Daddy was talking. Then I caught a glimpse of myself in the wall mirror, and I was smiling.

It wasn't long after that when Daddy began preparing lunch for Mama. I grabbed his old yeller chainsaw, and slipped out the door. There was a spring in my step as I headed for the bijou. "I'm going to get that willow down, by myself!" It felt so good to have a goal like that. I could just see his eyes pop when that tree crashed to the earth. I'd finally be a man when I impressed Daddy!

The willow wasn't that hard to find. It towered high over the other trees like a green cloud wallowing in the sky. Daddy had told me how big the willows got, but I didn't believe it until I got among them. Trees with 3 foot, even 4 foot trunks were the norm down on this stretch as I threaded my way unerringly towards the willow TOO BIG for Daddy. Then the way opened up before me and I saw it, and my heart stopped. It was huge. The top leaves were raking the bottom of heaven. And just as sure as anything, I knew that tree was coming down.

Daddy had cleared the way up to it, as meticulously as ever. I walked up to the tree and measured the trunk with my eye, only my measurer stopped at 8 feet across. That tree was huge!

I backed off and studied that tree from every angle. The first limbs were twice my height over my head. There was no telling which way it would want to fall either. I was grinning as I fired up the chainsaw, and started in.

It wasn't until an hour later that I realized the magnitude of the task I had given myself; I wasn't even started. With a tree that thick you can only cut out so much of the notch at a time. Then you go back to hack out some more so you will have room to cut deeper. The notch I was working on didn't even look like a crease yet. I stepped back to mop the sweat from my face, and saw Daddy coming.

He was grinning. "Soon as I heard that chainsaw roar to life, I knew where you was, and I come running. With your help, I can get this tree down, huh boy?"

I gritted my teeth. By nightfall though, I was glad he was there. That willow was nowhere close to being down. I went to sleep, dreaming about how I'd feel when that tree went tumbling to the earth.

Daddy woke me up, clattering around in the kitchen. When I went in Mama's room the heat hit me like the furnace of a runaway freight train. She was still shivering, frail like a sack of bones. She began crying when I asked how she was doing. "If it wasn't for your daddy taking care of me, I wouldn't even be alive."

Daddy had breakfast ready, eggs, and bacon, jelly and biscuits, and the plates kept warm in the oven. "You eat and go on down to the tree while I take care of your mama and do the dishes, then I'll come see how you're getting along without me."

I knew I wouldn't be doing good enough to suit him, but I didn't want Daddy's help. That tree was calling. My hands began shoveling food into my mouth. By working hard and fast, maybe I could get it down before he came out.

The sun was just turning the east pink when I stepped out on the porch with the yeller chainsaw against my leg. As I stepped out towards the bijou my legs wanted to run. It was a beautiful day, the air clean, just a touch of dew on the grass because of the light breeze. The birds, oh, I'd never seen so many birds. Any other time I'd've stopped to name them all, but today, the tree called, and I hurried to get there.

Two hours later though, the tree was still standing. I kept having to get the notch wider and wider to get the saw in at all, and it was hard work. My hands were vibrating even when the saw was off by the time Daddy arrived.

He grabbed the saw out of my hand without so much as a by-your-leave, and began working, a grin splitting his face. It wasn't long before his coat got as hot as mine. He peeled it off and threw it on the ground, eager to keep on going. I hauled our coats into the clearing where they would be close enough we wouldn't forget them, but still far enough out of the way. Then I came back and spelled Daddy off an on when I could get the saw out of his hands. Every time I had to rest he'd grab the saw away from me. I'd sit back on my haunches to study the top of that tree, and wish there was some way to make Daddy just go on home and let me bring it down alone.

Is YOUR Favorite Company Listed?
Family-Friendly Insurance Company Web Sites

The willow didn't begin to groan until 2 that afternoon. Around 4 I heard it creak the first time. And that was when I honestly got worried about Daddy. I touched his arm and made him stop the saw so he could hear. "Daddy, there's no telling which direction this tree is going to fall. You get out in the clearing and I'll bring it on down. You get out there by the coats so I'll know you'll be safe. Then all I'll have to worry about is getting my own self out of the way when the tree commences to fall. I won't have to worry about helping you."

Daddy's glance told me I'd cut his pride to the bone. We stood there, almost nose to nose for the longest time, without saying a word. But finally he nodded, and went to stand beside our coats. It was almost a victory, but I didn't take time to enjoy it. When I saw he was safe I went back to cutting with a vengeance.

It wasn't no time before I looked up and there Daddy was at my side.
I put the saw down.
"Daddy, you get out there by them coats so I'll know you'll be safe."

It was like chasing a little boy off from the candy store, but he went. Once again I got down on one knee to hack at that giant tree trunk. I cut, and I cut, and I cut. Then I looked up, and there was Daddy standing there watching me. I almost didn't have the heart to run him off again, but it was absolutely necessary. "Daddy, now I mean it. You get out there and stand right by them coats so I'll know exactly where you are, and that you are safe."

Tears were glinting in his gray eyes as he turned and shuffled off, feeling older by the minute by the way his shoulders drooped. Not until he was standing beside the coats and watching me did I turn around and begin cutting some more. It wasn't but about ten minutes later when the tree began shifting on its trunk, first this way, then swaying that. I didn't know which way to run. I threw the saw down and looked towards the coats to yell at Daddy; only he was standing there right beside me!  I was so scared I wanted to grab him by the hair of the head and drag him. He just stood there, his mouth open, his eye reaching up to the top of that tottering tree. There wasn't time to take him nowhere.

The air whistled like thunder as that tree cracked and splintered, then tottered out, and out, and out. My eye kept reaching, and never got to the end because when my gaze reached the coats, I stopped with my mouth open. Those coats disintegrated when the tree slammed into the ground on top of them and bounced back up into the air 30 feet high. Down it came again, and the severed trunk heaved in our direction. Me and Daddy leaped for our lives, him, as always, just a little bit ahead.

We were a good 100 yards off before we got stopped and turned around. The first place I looked was where our coats had been, and there wasn't no part of them left to see.

The tree had slammed into them so hard that there wasn't a piece of them left to find between two railroad tracks, and that was right where I'd been sending Daddy to keep him safe? I swallowed hard and glanced at Daddy, he was looking there too. If he hadn't come up to be beside me, he'd have been mashed into a thousand pieces. Was he thinking the same thing? Would he turn on me in righteous fury?

Daddy swallowed and glanced at me. He grinned weakly. "You never know, do you? But we got it where we can handle it now. Me and you, we done it, son. We brought the willow down."

We? It seemed like that was the first time in my life I had ever heard him use that word in reference to us.

I liked the sound of it. Somehow, when he said "WE" it just didn't matter that much that Daddy was a better man than me.

the end 

You can download Lin's complete book
for reading offline by
Clicking HERE.

Please Click HERE and let us know if you liked this story.

Lin Stone is an author, writer and photographer living in Mena Arkansas among the gentle mountains known as Ouachita.  He writes about adventures and he writes about the peaceable things of this world for Share Your State.  In his spare time Lin writes copy for insurance roundup.  You can have immediate, and free, reading of many more pieces when you send your little surfer scooting to Lin's home page at where he keeps stirring up more good things for the soul.

these stories now.

Nurturing the family in these times, by Earl H. Roberts.

Some of J. T. Hale's ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence.  Nathan Hale is counted as one of his relatives.  (They come from the same Hale family)  These are parts of his own personal heritage but ALL the signers of the Declaration are part of every American's heritage.  That means Nathan Hale can be a hero to all of us.  After all, if you go back far enough all of us are related to kings, queens, and all the other rapscallions too.

The recipe for keeping the modern family together still begins in the kitchen.

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation  

I've learned, I have!  I've not had the best time of my life! But, I have learned to accept the bad with the good. You do not know what your life will bring tomorrow, so enjoy all that you've been given today.

Free Scholarships for your young scholar. It takes hours online every day to update, research and verify all four thousand of the Scholarship offerings available. YOU can get all that information for FREE. The Scholarship Directory contains textually enhanced links to over 4,000 websites where you can register for all types of Scholarships and Grants for your children. Download the Directory for free, and while you're at it, take the time to register for a FREE Scholarship worth $10,000.00

They sat around moping when Daddy died because he had not left them any legacy. They were so down in the mouth that I stood up and volunteered to pay Daddy back for that time he drove 350 miles to get me when my car blowed up and my whole family was stranded on the road. "I figure that kind of service call is worth a thousand dollars because he kind of done it on credit and I never paid the bill. I'll put that in the pot for yawl a legacy to divide up.

Down with the Willow... Daddy always was a better man than I;  How do you deal with that?  The Willow was bigger than both of us.

Pray for your spouse because in these treacherous times there are forces threatening us in the workplace as never before.

Whistle -- an inspirational Father's Day Story because the promises we forget are usually the ones never forgot.

The First Day of School is always the toughest, by Lin Stone

There Are Gypsies In My Dreams 

Pretty Pictures taken by a father who might could have been something.  If only, if only.

Smiles, by Filomena Borsellino.  A smile is the sweetest Treasure on Earth.

Michael was not my problem.  When he first came to us he was a bundle of boyish energy, too large for his age and too bright for his years. It was said that he ran his poor grandmother to death, and having seen them together I believed it. Itís strange. All of us believed it, but none of us helped, not like we should have. Oh, we hoped she could hold out, and some of us probably prayed God would give her more strength. But somehow we all felt Michael was HER problem, and not ours.

The Ice Cream "Comb" by Rick Beneteau because Quitting is never an option.

Ice Memories that never get cold, by Lin Stone

I Can't Remember You:  That first shock of being forgotten by someone we love is enough to turn our world upside down.  All I could think of to say was, "I am someone you have been very kind to over many years." 

Kids and Sunday School, by J. Edgar Hoover.

Grandma's Bath Tub, an essay of love by Lin Stone

Doing the Dishes:  Take pride in who you are and what you like doing, even if there are some to this day who believe that gender should decide what we like or dislike and doing the dishes is for sissies. 

Living with Spina Bifida, a poet's story.

The Hug.. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can't get what we want until we give it away to someone else first.

Remember Grandpa:  Nearly 17 years later, I can still hear grandpa's laughter, still smell grandma's coffee, still shiver at the memory of how cold those rivers were.

Why Teach Your Child To Read?  Reading problems are a further challenge to our world by contribute significantly to the perpetuation of socio-economic, racial and ethnic inequities. However it is not just poor and minority children who struggle with reading. According to the 2002 national report card on reading by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), most of our children (64%) are less than proficient in reading even after 12 years of our attempts to teach them.

There are MORE  Hand-Picked Essays
in the following categories

Personal  *  Inspirational  *  Helpful  *  Social  *  War  *  Freedom  *  Money 

Check out our whole site with one click.