Tree hugging never made it high in our household. At least it didn’t until the day my husband became an avid convert. It happened one afternoon as he watched yet another gripping (or is that disappointing?) Razorback game. With the sound on the TV turned to stadium loud, I retired to the back bedroom to escape the noise. I closed the door to buffer myself from the noise. With a good book to read and computer to check out YouTube videos or work on some writing, I settled down for the duration.
Maybe half an hour later, I heard my neighbor’s voice in the backyard as she went by the window. “Probably coming over to ask my husband about something,” I thought as I turned a page.
“Joan! We need you out here, right now. Mr. Hershberger is up a tree!” The neighbor had opened our back door to breathlessly call through the house.
I ran to the front of the house where the TV blared out the half time entertainment to an empty room. One husband had gone outside to work on removing the tree hanging over our neighbor’s fence.
Bare footed, I stepped quickly over the grass, looked up and saw, my 79 year-old husband 10 feet above the ground with his legs and arms wrapped around the tree, hanging on for life. Beneath him some irregular tree stumps from a previous day’s work promised him a hurtful landing if he let go of that tree.
“You need to move the ladder under my feet,” he said. The ladder had skewed away from his body. He said something about the bungee cord breaking. One foot still clung to the ladder wedged into the ground so we could not move it toward him.
“I’ll get a ladder from our house,” the neighbor said. She sent her son.
“I have a couple more ladders around the corner of the barn,” my husband remembered.
“Never mind,” she hollered across the lawns. Another neighbor placed the second ladder under the newly initiated tree hugger’s feet.
With one foot on the secure ladder, he said, “I have to unfasten the belt to get down.” He had made a safety belt by linking together two leather belts. It worked. It stopped his fall. He sort of sat on one half. That other half hooked over a tree limb about 10 feet above the ground.
We held our breath as he unfastened the safety belt and carefully swung his other foot over to the ladder and climbed down.
“You are too old to be doing that,” the neighbor scolded. Other voices echoed her concern.
He looked at her ruefully and turned to me, “I called you.”
“I couldn’t hear anything except the TV.”
Fortunately the neighbor went outside for a half-time break from Razorbacks and heard his calls for help. All’s well that ends well and he promised no more ladder shenanigans.
I wrote a note to my daughter describing the incident. She called to say, “That’s ridiculous. I want to have him around for his 80th birthday. Have someone else cut down the tree!”
Since then while conversing with folks, I have asked him, “Do you want to tell them how you became a tree hugger?”
Eyebrows raised until he told his story. Then they just shook their heads.
I wish I had heard him that day. Days later, I also wished I had grabbed my phone and taken a picture for social media because, for some reason, my hubby has no interest in returning to his perch to replay his initiation as a tree hugger.