We have a tree. We have many trees, in fact, too many. We have a silver maple trash tree in the front yard that we need to take down this fall before it gets too big for its britches. There's a lovely sweetgum on the tree lawn--I may be one of the few fans of sweetgums left in the midwest, We have several baby oaks in front, too, that I need to just close my eyes and cut off at the base. In the back, we share a gorgeous old magnolia that twists up in three trunks. It's old enough that Mary, who owned our house before us, told us that when the owners before her parents lived there, it was struck by lightning. That puts it at around 80, at least. Healthy and perfect. Around the yard, we have a redbud and two scarlet oaks and a silver-red maple hybrid--I think Anne behind me called it an Armstrong?--which means it's a straight silver maple, essentially. I like it, but I know it can't stay.
And then we have the mulberry. In this photo, it's on the right hand side. I don't have a full picture of it because it is unbeautiful and has a comfortable mind (from e.e. cummings, total flight of ideas there...).
It is on the alley. It is in the wires. It is part of the problem with the flickering electricity, and it is messy. The only good thing about this tree continuing to live is that, for whatever reason, it does not fruit. Our electric company did come through after the devastating storms of 2006 and trim the heck out of it--it sits firmly at the utility pole, but half its crown is missing--it doesn't have anything overhanging the alley or the high tension wires at all.
We had astounding bids. Like tuition for a year at a Catholic grade school astounding. A tree service took down a mulberry, a sycamore, a trash maple, and a sick elm behind us and I said, hey, can you give me a bid?
That was two years ago and we haven't taken the tree down yet. Mike took down one large overhanging branch last fall. And we trim it back where we can each summer. Our electric company took some more bites off the alley side. But it's still there. It is like a hydra--cut off a branch and by the end of the season, there are three in its place. Crazy weedy thing.
This afternoon, I mentioned the tree to my neighbors again, who said, basically, anytime is fine. Then I went to a barbecue at my parents' house, and lo and behold, my Uncle Glennon (named for the Cardinal, not the hospital) was there. Glennon, I think, has no fear. He's impossibly skinny and looks like someone who should play guitar in a country & western band. He smokes too much and drinks too much and, like me and my siblings and my father and all those Blakes, TALKS TOO MUCH. Everybody has his or her area of expertise, and there ain't no shutting us up. Glennon, it's trees.
"That won't be no thing," he tells me, smoking a cigarette in my empty parking pad, looking up at the wires. "Nothing but little trash branches and a million leaves. It'll be a full day's work, maybe 12 hours in a tree, and I'll charge you 15, let's say, an hour. You'll lose your fence, you might lose some plants and that maple tree, but you want to lose the maple tree anyway."
I tell him that if he wants to charge me that, he can do whatever he wants. We'll be stuck with the debris, but he'll take anything big enough and straight enough for fence posts, since mulberry "just don't rot." It also burns hot and long, like locust, and takes forever to dry out.
By Thanksgiving, if the river don't rise and the electric company doesn't hassle me about dropping my line into the house, we will be mulberry free. Of course, then we'll have to drill holes in the stump and fill it "fulla motor oil or kerosene," Glennon says while we're still at the barbecue.
"Or stump rot," my dad points out.
"Stump rot?" I ask.
"You can get it at the store," he says.
"You can buy a product called Stump Rot?"
I won't fill our alley tree stump with motor oil, dear neighbors. Or dynamite or saltpeter or all the other suggestions I've found online. I will probably try something like this combined with hyper-vigilant sucker-shoot removal. I've waited 8 years to take this baby down, I can fight a stump for 4 or 5 more. Surely.