Friday Firesmith – Of Water and Trees

Twenty something years ago when I first moved out here, one of the big live oak trees near the old dog kennel had a decided lean to it. Oaks will do this, and they’ll hang around forever leaning at an angle that defies physics and understanding. Yet this one was too close to the lowest spot on the property, and after months of above average rainfall and standing water, things got weird. 

A tree in the woods

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We had eleven inches of rainfall in six hours.

I went outside and looked at the tree. Was it leaning even more? I put my rubber boots on and went out to check. Dammmmmnnnn. It was leaning more. And I could hear it groaning, too. 

I went inside and heard it fall. The tree was down, dying slow, and nothing could be done about it. Hundreds of years of growth were wiped out in an instant. 

A large tree with a fallen branch

The whole area was underwater, and the driveway was flooded. 

A road with water in the middle

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However, this area is no stranger to water. The people who live here are not easily spooked by weather events. The driveway was crafted by men who knew how to create a hard base in case of flooding, and the pond has a flood pipe. The water came up, we met in our rubber boots and joked about gathering the animals. 

Despair is not unknown in this part of the world, but the weather isn’t anything to wail about. It is what it is when it is, and nothing you say or do will alter it. The water was here, trees were down, and we were all still alive. Nothing had happened time would not fix. My neighbors had plans to visit their family in Virginia and away they went. The water would be here when they returned. 

I had work to do, and begin trying to cut a path past the top of the downed tree. Once I did that, I would have a path to the woods to leave the branches I cut. True, the water was chest high in places, but you can only get so wet.

A fallen tree in the woods

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The path is blocked. 

A cart in the woods

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The path is cleared! (Kind of, sort of) 

As I write this, the main body of the tree, and the largest limbs are still in the way. The plan is to cut a path into the woods, but to leave most of the tree on the ground, to return to the earth in its time. We have room to work, but no one wants to wade into water to use a chainsaw, so we will wait. Being impatient with tree cutting sounds like an easy way to get hurt, and no one wants that, either. None of us are young anymore, and some of us have some age. 

This is no disaster, no trial on our souls, no. This is life in the woods when a tree falls. This is what we signed up for when we moved away from civilization. The world here is as it is. We are not helpless nor are we easily daunted by hard work. 

I lost a Live Oak that will never be replaced. Few are planted, fewer are protected, and the world is diminished with each giant that falls. To me, this is the only tragedy here. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

12 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Of Water and Trees”

  1. Your cadre has the right attitude and attitude is everything.
    More men have killed themselves by getting wound up over annoyances as if they were emergencies.

    • You can’t live at the whim of nature and not be stoic, Bruce. We’ve all seen worse, we will see worse, no one was hurt, nothing but water to worry about. I get stories from troubles, and here we are.

    • Richard, I’m 100 miles from that swamp but plenty of it to go around, here. Alligators we have plenty of, most of them smallish, less than five foot. I haven’t started seeing Cottonmouths yet. It’s too wet to mow, so the yard is getting thick. It’s interesting how much water we’ve seen.

  2. I revere the old Live Oaks as old ancestors who have seen much and probably heard more in their time. If they could share their stories and their wisdom with us we’d know the truths of the things that happened in the past and much of history may have to be re-written.
    I’m sorry you lost an old ancestor.

  3. As a teenager I worked in a small county park with a river flowing down the middle. There was a road around the park that I drove every morning as I picked up trash. One morning I was on my second pass on this road when I found my way block by a giant black walnut tree. It wasn’t there the first time I went around. It was a beautiful, sunny day with no wind. I walked down to the root ball to investigate and found a large family of skunks milling around. Best guess was their burrow had excavated some important roots.

  4. The live oak is protected in South Carolina. According to our friends that live there, one can get in to a lot of legal trouble damaging a live oak. And if one needs to be taken down on your property, you have to get permission.

    And while your stoicism is a great way to handle the storm damage and water, have you thought about getting help digging ditches or whatnot to divert the water–at least from your driveway?

    • Tim, we’re pretty much at the lowest point here. Moreover, I hesitate to move water. Once you get it moving, it’s hard to stop, and you’ve done something much harder to undo than to do. Usually, it isn’t this bad and there’s no reason to think this is the new normal.


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