Don Lively



I’d been staring at the tree for a half hour.

Prior to that morning, I’d stared at it dozens of other times trying to determine its fate.

A little background:

During many of the thirty years that I lived Out West, my places of abode lacked shade. As I’ve noted in the past, Denver and the surrounding cities sit on a geographical area known as a high desert. Trees of any size, other than the cottonwoods that thrive along the edges of the waterways, are scarce, large trees even scarcer.

No trees mean no shade.

I like shade.

So, when I moved back to the Blessed South and began making plans to build my final residence, shade was a priority. When my nephew and his young bride, Fireball, moved from their newlywed singlewide into a fine house on the lake in town, I claimed their spot on our land. Once the trailer was moved out, I measured off a lot where I wanted my house to sit, one that was surrounded by trees, some so close that I can now touch them from the north porch.

I accomplished my goal.

My house is shady, just the way I like it.

There are enough sunny spots for my little tomato garden and for the very rare occasions when I want to sit in the sun, but for the most part, most of the day the house is cool and shaded.

I’ve loved my shade trees since the day I moved onto the wooded enclave.

Then one day I noticed something.

A huge oak on the southwest corner of the house had started to lean.

Toward the house.

Why don’t trees ever decide to lean away from the house?

I’m sure that there’s some botanical reason for the inward lean but even if somebody could explain it, it doesn’t help the problem. Once a tree starts to lean one direction, it ain’t going to miraculously change direction.

That’s what I was thinking that day as I stared up at the huge oak.

I made a decision.

The tree had to go.

I wasn’t an easy choice. I love my trees. But I love my house equally and the thought of tons of green wood falling on it was unfathomable.

A major problem, other than the close proximity of the tree to the house, was that there were several other trees close by. So, as I studied on the matter, I decided exactly what could be done.

I also determined exactly where I wanted the tree to fall, straight between another oak and a huge pine.

Then I prayed.

“Lord, please let the tree fall right there.”

I pointed to the spot, as though the Almighty needed me to.

Then, I summoned my posse.

My country kin love a chore that’s not easily accomplished.

They showed up ready, willing and (mostly) able.

I trust my guys, but I still prayed.

“Lord, please, right there.”

Of course, since most of these fellows are even more hardheaded than I am, and just as opinionated, they all brought their own ideas on how to get the tree down.

I tried to assert my authority since it was my house at risk.

“I want it to fall right there.”

I was over-ruled.

The “committee” decided to hook and pull it at a completely different angle which was going to make it more difficult for me to cut it up once it was on the ground, but, since they were all working for free, I acquiesced.

Willie shinnied up the ladder and attached the strap, then several of us pulled the cable as tight as possible while the other end was hooked to a comealong attached to another tree. Once that was accomplished the entire line was tightened and the tree was ready to be cut.

That job fell to me since nobody else wanted to be responsible if things went to crap. Theoretically, the tree was supposed to fall in line with the strap.

It didn’t happen.

I made the wedge cut on the front first and then as I made the rear cut that would cause the tree to fall, for a few seconds the tree ominously shuddered toward the house, but then the cable did its job.

The tree fell exactly, precisely, where I had prayed it would, not where the committee had said it would.

I just looked Heavenward, winked and smiled.

God had overruled the committee.

I was so relieved that didn’t spend one second gloating. I fed the crew grilled sausages and potato chips and a grand time was had by all.

“Right there, Lord…thank You!”

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of several books of Southern Humor. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at

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