It also had glorious brown and gold sculptured carpet, two and a half bathrooms and a wobbly, non-functioning banister that was for "looks only". What can I say? We were a decadent bunch back then.
Since ours was one of the first homes in the new subdivision, we felt the responsibility to fill in the vacant air with lush landscaping. And being poorer than church mice, on account of blowing our wad on glittery popcorn ceilings, we could only afford Cotton-less Cottonwoods. Otherwise known as "trash trees".
These trees were the prostitutes of the neighborhood. With their come-hither leaves and bare trunks, they lured us in with a cheap price and promise of summer shade. All the while refusing to put down roots and actually commit to a long term relationship. They grew a few inches every minute, so by the time they were two, they were big enough to hold a tree-house. At the five year mark, they were twice the size of our home. Teenaged boys would scale the branches and look into my window and my neighbor, Tish Graham, would call and warn me not to get undressed with the lights on. But I'm not gonna lie—I was kind of flattered they thought there would be something to look at.
Fast forward about 20 years. The tree in the backyard succumbed to a bug infestation and cracked in half during a summer storm. We knew it was just a matter of time before the same thing happened to the front tree, and were worried because the branches hung so close to the house. My parents checked with their insurance to see if they'd pay for removal. No, they said. We won't pay for prevention. We want to make sure the cancer has spread before we get you in to see the doctor.
Enter stage right—the new son-in-law, Sterling. Eager to please his wife's parents and feeling manly—bless him—he spoke up with confidence and declared, "THIS IS EASY. I KNOW JUST WHAT TO DO."
And we believed him.
He picked up his chain saw and went to work, cutting down a few of the smaller branches in preparation. This soon became tedious, so he figured he'd just get right to it. He tied one end of a rope around half of the tree, and the other end to the back of his Pathfinder.
"As soon as we cut through that big branch," he explained, "I'm going to pull it away from the house with my SUV really fast." This sounded reasonable to us. Course, nobody did any sort of math...mostly because that seemed like a lot of work. Permit, you ask? Well, that's just silly. We didn't need no stinkin' math or permits because we had faith. Plus a couple of grown men in the neighborhood joined in to help, which was as good as a blessing.
By then, the entire community had gathered around, setting up lawn chairs and placing bets. The excitement was contagious. I was told to keep all of the small children away while Larry Waite shimmied up the tree with his chain saw, and Sterling and James Barnhill climbed into their vehicles, ready to pull, "really fast".
With the snap of the branch, the men punched their accelerators and were both promptly yanked right off the road and into the air backwards, as the tree took a split second to decide, then chose to do whateverthehell it wanted to do. And it wanted to fall onto the house.
Every. Single. Woman. watching this scene threw their hands to their faces, gasping a HUGE lungful of air, then exhaled and exclaimed in unison the exact same sentiment: "HOLEEEYYYY SHHH..."
You know the rest.
That was the last sound we heard. Nothing more to say. There was a great exodus as everybody gathered their winnings and their chairs, then walked home in absolute silence.
Well, you would think this would dampen our spirits. Terrible things like a tree crashing through a house should surely merit weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. But the following pictures tell the tale of how my parents responded: