The long story behind Grandad’s tree
Firstly, a bit about Grandad……
My father-in-law (aka “Grandad”) was a wise old farmer who knew how to handle his livestock in a gentle way and he seemed in have an innate understanding of all animals (including native wildlife) and the land he managed.
His cattle were the picture of health and it was often said by a local stock inspector that when he died he wanted to come back as a cow on Bob’s farm.
Grandad raised 5 children with his lovely wife “Nana”. I married one of their sons. Grandad’s daughters? … well one of them is nice…. The other two are in my bad books for the duration.
To cut a long story slightly less long …..
Sadly, Grandad was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2005, which he bravely fought … and actually was cancer free for about a week … and then succumbed in February 2007. He was only 73. He never smoked nor drank, ate healthy food – lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and was as fit as a fiddle – he could outwork most men half his age. He was a gentle, happy soul who grew up in a house of horror (he remembers his father flinging a pot of boiling water at his mother when he was a child)…. and yet the cancer still got him.
Grandad’s funeral was held in the small local cemetery.. …so small that most people don’t know it’s there. The funeral was held on my husband’s 43rd birthday – yet another example of his sisters failing to be considerate when dictating How. They. Want. Things. To. Be. (My husband was trying to be too much of a man at the time to tell the heartless bitches them to make it a day earlier or later).
A traditional wake was held after the funeral at the local CWA hall and then we and the rest of the locals retired to the farm to have a sausage sizzle and general yarn (this seems a bit odd to some, but when locals don’t get much chance to natter away to each other, nor interstate relatives much chance to talk with their families, a post-wake sausage sizzle is a GOOD thing).
….and here’s where the tree comes in….
The sausage sizzle was held down near the yards as “the boys” had planned to light up the top half of a big gum tree nearby. The bottom few branches of the tree were alive and healthy, but a lightning strike years ago meant that the top third of the tree had died and was just waiting to fall. Basically, branches were hanging precariously over the cattle yards – what we call “widow makers”.
Grandad had often talked about doing this job but never managed to get around to it.
So, as a tribute, the boys decided to do the job. …and if you’ve ever seen a tree slowly burning at night, it’s quite a beautiful site (a caveat here – we’d had plenty of rain, and the surrounding area was lush and green and not a bushfire risk).
So a scaffold was built on top of one of the farm trucks in order to reach the point at which they wanted to start the burn and the boys set about lighting the top of the tree (using compressed air to really get it going).
They picked a point above the point Grandad had always said he’d choose. The lower branches were fine of course – what real difference would it make?
Much merriment was had on such a sad day as the boys argued about the how and the where but they finally got a decent fire going inside the trunk of the tree.
It was a beautiful site to see and we all sat some distance away, munching sausages and other goodies, yarning away, admiring the tree and toasting Grandad (not literally – perhaps I should say we raised out glasses in tribute).
The tree slowly crackled and burned and lit up the sky. The boys camped down at the yards to monitor the fire, finally dousing the flames at around 3am before getting some sleep.
…and here’s where the bit about life after death comes in…..
The next morning (well technically LATER that same morning) my husband and his brother were surveying their job – the top half of the tree had burned to fine charcoal and fallen to the ground and the bottom half was still intact.
They congratulated themselves on a Job Well Done.
Or so they thought.
Just as they walked out of the ‘widow-maker’ zone, most of the remaining branches crashed to the ground with a thud, just missing them by metres.
Some say coincidence.
We say Grandad having a laugh and finishing the job properly.
So the following night another bonfire was lit in the base of the tree. Ironically the branch Grandad always intended to retain was (and is) the only branch still alive. Thriving even.
…and that’s how we know that Grandad lives on and still has his wacky sense of humour!