Death of an Ash

It doesn’t look much to the untrained eye. But it is everything. After moving into our new home in late August, I was sitting on the back porch, enjoying my backyard when I really began looking at the Arizona Ash growing in the middle of the yard. I fell in love with the tree the first time I saw it because I love big, old trees, as most people do.

So I was enjoying the tree. It stood their providing shade and character to my back yard.

Then I noticed it. It? The big hole that looked like it would be a wonderful home for a squirrel. It was right there in the trunk of the tree. Great place for acorns. But a dreadful warning.

I looked up at the tree and made my second foreboding observation. All the limbs, without exception, were dead. There were no leaves on them. There were plenty of leaves on the tree. But the long branches, that extended up and out, had no leaves at all.

The feeling that something wasn’t right began to creep into my brain. I’m not a tree expert. But I do know, when you see big holes and dead limbs, well, you better seek some help.

I got up from chair and went to look more closely. I saw the rot in another part of the trunk. The type of rot that broke off in my hands when I probed a bit deeper. The tree was clearly sick and dying.

I didn’t want to think about it. I went and sat down on the back porch again… and thought about it.

“Maybe the tree wasn’t dying. Maybe, the dead limbs at the top of the tree, were nothing more than a result from the drought we’ve been experiencing. Maybe the tree is just fine and needs a trim. All is well. Nothing to see here.”

I went about my business, hoping that nothing was truly wrong. I even asked a landscape man to look at it. He made the comment that if we trimmed it, it might last a while longer. I ignored that key word, “might.”

All was well.

Then, several Saturdays ago, as I was working in the yard, I noticed something. A big portion of the tree had fallen. It had fallen over my fence and into the neighbors yard in an arch, missing my wonderful fence. I trust in God’s kind providence. It also missed the neighbor’s fence.

Being industrious, as much as I can be, I got out my loppers, and bow saw, let the neighbors know I was on it, and went to work cutting and trimming away the limb. Then… 61 years of age caught up with me. I realized, as that fictitious tool man once proclaimed: “I need more power.”

I texted the men of the church asking if anyone had a chainsaw I could borrow, and I continued to work on the limb. I even sent a few of the pics below to the group. A few responded saying that they couldn’t help because of prior commitments. There was o surprise there.

I made my decision: I needed a chainsaw. I went to work doing a quick investigation on the best chainsaw within my price range. I didn’t need much of one, since I didn’t plan on becoming a lumberjack any time soon. I settled on one, and went to buy it at the local big-box hardware and junk store. I was quite pleased with my choice. The guy on Youtube said it was the best for the price, and he was like me, not in need of too much power.

My concern was with Heidi. She knows that I won’t make a rash decision, or maybe she does, but is willing to let me make it as any godly wife would. Yet, I knew she didn’t like the idea of spending that kind of money on something I would use once or twice. So I was hesitant.

I pulled into the driveway with great expectations of dealing with the problem of th tree limb quickly and getting on with the rest of my day.

Then the text came.

I had already made up my mind that if anyone texted me to help before I opened the box, I would take the chainsaw back. Seth texted me. He said he could come over and help later in the day. I let him know that I bought a chainsaw. He persisted… gently, as is his way.

I pushed back… but not with a lot of force.

He gently persisted again. It was hard to say no to Seth because he and his brother Abel had survived off of running a tree trimming business for a while, so I needed to listen.

Humility came crashing in by God’s rich grace and mercy and 32 minutes later I was returning the chainsaw… and buying a leaf blower. I will definitely need a leaf blower. But I digress.

Seth came over later in the day and started looking closer at the fallen limb. What he was able to spot was that … it wasn’t just one limb that fell, but two. One much higher had actually fallen and hit the lower one, the one I was working on, and was still trying to fall. As he worked about the tree, trying to bring the top limb down, the reality of the danger I faced was slowly sinking into my brain. Had I kept cutting on the lower branch, the upper branch would have fallen and possibly hit me, and definitely taken out the fence.

Seth saw it right away. I tried to get up high enough in the tree to get a line around it, so it could be pulled in another direction in order to take down the lower limb. He climbed too high for my comfort and I started praying.

When that didn’t work, he got on top of my fence, which has a 1×4 running along the top, so that he had a pace to stand and toss a rope up towards the upper branch. Now I really prayed. Had I stood on that 1×4… I get dizzy just writing that sentence.

But there he was, perfectly at home, tossing that rope, ignoring my pleas to come down and be sensible.

He finally did and said what I was telling him all along, I needed to higher someone to come take care of it. To my delight, Seth continues in good health today and suffered no injuries due to my sick and dying tree.

But it was worse than that.

Seth explained to me that the green leaves I was seeing on the tree were not the green leaves of a healthy tree, but one of a tree that has already died. The tree is dead. At least to those who know trees.

That means it has to come down. And for one who love big trees, I have to say that I’m saddened by the reality. One of the reasons I loved it so is that I’ve planted a lot of trees in my adult life, but rarely been able to enjoy them. This tree… was planted by someone more than 40 years ago, and I was enjoying it, if only for a short time. I was hoping that it would last many years. But it isn’t to be so. The ash is dead.


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  1. Good advice from Seth. I’m glad no one was hurt.


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