Christmas Tree

Christmas tree: (n) a decorated tree at Yuletide

“If you want a tree, go get it yourself.”

That’s what my dad said when I was fourteen years old and asked him why we had not put up our tree as of yet, at Christmastime.

Normally the practice was to pick a tree and decorate it on my birthday–one week before Christmas. But for some reason, December 20th had rolled around and nobody had even mentioned getting one.

I was offended, disrupted, angry, bewildered, uncertain, out-of-spirits and generally and profoundly rebellious, in the most adolescent way possible.

So I complained. That’s what I knew how to do.

Since I had asked at least a half a dozen times about the tree, I felt it was time for me to object. he option provided for me by my dad was to go get a tree myself.

This was plausible because our family owned a little farm outside the town, where we grew some Christmas trees. So I had my brother drive me out to the location, grabbed a little hatchet and headed off through the snowy ground to bag myself an evergreen.

With my chubby legs and being severely out of shape, I was completely exhausted from the walk to the pines–ready to give up on my mission. After all, it wasn’t my fault. I was not in charge. If the damn family didn’t want a tree, then we should be treeless.

But the problem was, that included me–and I didn’t want to be treeless.

So braving the cold, little hatchet in hand, I found what I thought would be a good tree and began to whack at the trunk.

My hatchet had obviously been purchased by Davy Crockett when he went to the Alamo and not sharpened since. The first three strikes at the tree trunk didn’t even split the bark. So as not to bore you, I will shorten this story by telling you that an hour later, sweat pouring off my face, I finally got the tree to give up its roots and prepare to move to my home.

The trunk was an absolute mess. It was not a cut, but rather a massacre. But I drug it out, my brother and I put it on top of the car, and we drove it to the house. He kindly helped me saw the bottom off to make it even so we could put it into the Christmas tree stand. To add insult to my effort, it ended up being too tall. We had to cut off part of the top.

But eventually it sat in our living room, waiting to be adorned.

That evening when my father returned from working at his loan company, he stepped into the house, looked at the tree, and said to me, “Is that the best tree you could get?”

I didn’t respond to him directly, but in my mind I thought, “Yes. It’s the best tree I could get. Because this year it’s my tree.”

 

 

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Brook

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Brook: (n) a small stream

About two miles outside of our little town, my dad bought a piece of land, where he hoped his growing children would be able to escape and get a sense of “farm” and fresh air.Dictionary B

It wasn’t large, and because it wasn’t tended well, it was usually overgrown.

But every once in a while I got an itch to go out and walk through the tall grass to a clearing where there was a high bank surrounding a brook.

The stream was not very impressive–probably about seven feet across at its widest place, and no more than a foot-and-a-half deep.

But it was usually clear–see right to the bottom.

One day I told my dad I was going to go fishing in the brook. He laughed at me, and explained that our little waterway would not sustain fish because there was no place for them to go.

After soaking my worm in the water for about an hour–to no avail–I realized he was right. I was about to give up when I sensed some movement in some nearby rocks.

It was a little fish.

I don’t know how he got there (or if he was a she). But he was obviously trapped, not knowing which way to go. Every time he swam forward he hit a rock, and every time he swam the other way, he bumped his nose on a stone.

He was literally caught between a rock and a hard place.

So for the next hour, I threw my hook and worm near him, hoping to draw the little fishie onto my rod and reel, so I could go back proudly and tell my dad he was wrong.

When the worm didn’t draw the fish’s attention, I attempted to reach in and grab him. He was very athletic and eluded my grasp.

I finally gave up.

I went to tell my dad to come and see the fish that was in our brook. He waited, puttered around, and finally made his way out to view my discovery.

The fish was gone.

I have no idea how that little blue gill figured out a way to escape his prison. But Nature always comes up with a plan.

Fish are not like us.

They don’t get frustrated, mad … and decide to hide out in their room.

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Bovine

Bovine: (adj) of, relating to, or affecting cattle.

I suppose I would feel differently if I grew up on a ranch, but during my travels, I was invited Dictionary Bby a gentleman and his wife to come and stay a couple of days on their farm.

Normally on these kinds of excursions, I try to express an interest by offering the extent of what I know about their occupation or lifestyle. I don’t do this to be a know-it-all, but just to get the conversation started, so they can ramble on a bit and be my instructors.

I feel it’s the least I can do for some good meat loaf and clean sheets.

But when it came to the realm of farming and the animals that inhabit the location, I was lost. Matter of fact, when my friend took me out to his barn, I walked in and felt as if I had just landed on a really bad-smelling planet.

Yes–barns do not sniff of hay. They permeate of shit.

But I endured.

First we walked by some horses. Honest to God, I would swear that those creatures stared at me as if to say, “What in the hell are you doing in here?”

Then we arrived at the cows. The bovines.

  • I was surprised at how large they were.
  • I was stunned by how indifferent they seemed to my presence.
  • And I was extraordinarily overwhelmed by the size of their teats.

I kind of felt like a little boy who suddenly discovered a Playboy Magazine–farm version.

I became completely befuddled when the farmer wanted me to reach down and pull on the protrusions to acquire milk. I can’t even describe the levels of squeamish that trickled down my spine. It was a combination of girly-girl “g-r-r-r-oss” and feeling like I was cheating some calf out of breakfast.

I will never forget the experience, because it is so typical of me as a person.

After all, it is much easier to discuss a cow in theory than have a face-to-face.

 

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Acre

Words from Dic(tionary)

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter AAcre: (n.) a unit of land area equal to 4,840 square yards

I don’t use the word “acre” much.

I once had a house near the lake which sat on one-and-a-half acres–considered to be a lot of land in its location.

Of course, it’s NOTHING in comparison to forty acres and a mule. That’s what each emancipated slave was promised upon leaving the plantation to begin a life of freedom. (Most of them are still waiting.)

It did make me think… forty acres are a LOT of turf. But I suppose if you had a family of four or five people, it would take that much land to plant enough crops to sustain one through the year.

My family owned a farm just outside our little town which was about four or five acres. (My brother recently described it as a “forty acre farm,” but I am quite sure that was embellishment  … or land envy.) But I do remember that the four or five acres was also quite expansive–since NONE of us knew how to farm, clear the terrain or maintain the surroundings.

I once thought I might like to be a land-owner, or baron. But after owning a home for a certain length of time and wondering if every creak would turn into a crimp, draining my bank account, I am not quite so eager to be an “acre taker.”

As I travel across the country, I drive by fields which are impeccably maintained by intelligent farmers who provide the sustenance for our country–and probably enough surplus to feed the whole world, if such a notion ever popped into our minds. Such magnificent technicians these farmers must be!

Because I remember–when my family tried to grow strawberries on about a half an acre, the sheer brute force of nature, in the form of weeds, pestilence and poor weather conditions, turned our little crop into scrub brush instead of quarts and quarts of blessing.

I am so glad there are people who understand “acre,” so that I can benefit from their wisdom … and buy my strawberries in containers at the store.

I hope someday I can assist them in some wonderful way. Maybe I could write an essay on planting or harvesting.