One cool crisp autumn evening, as I was raking up some pin oak leaves in the front yard, I glanced at the tree above to see how close it was to becoming bare. Up there, I spied three empty robin nests and instantly collected two of them with a stretch of my long rake. I gently placed the nests on the porch’s knick-knack table, and then looked at the third abandoned nest, forty feet high. This one was going to be more difficult.
Fortunately, I had just purchased a small stepladder from Kings. At Twin Falls prices too.
I drug the ladder through the leaf piles, over to the oak. Since no one was around, I put my cell phone in my pocket, for emergency, in case I fell out of the tree.
I donned my best lumberjack shoes, and climbed the tree, using the teetering ladder to get into the first part. . Once ascended to twenty feet, I saw two separate branches as logical routes to the last robin’s nest. One was easy and one hard. But if I climbed the easy route, with my heaviness, I would likely splinter off some spindly oak branches and have to take the most dangerous route down. I should have tossed the rake up in the tree before I started. I decided to sit down in the wide expanse where the branches intersected with the trunk, to think it over
There was a cubbyhole up there in the protection of the tree. With my bare hand I pulled out what looked like radio crystals, an old piece of wire and a baseball card of Jim Thorpe. The wire was amazingly thick and long. Probably ten-gauge. It kept coming out of the oak, with every five feet or so, an ancient piece of rusted tin attached. I had to tug hard on the tree, whenever these sections appeared, to yank them out of the oak hollow.
This was intriguing me. It was as if someone had long ago attached an old ham radio to the interior of the tree for better reception, and over time the solid oak had swallowed up this technology. As a light rain began, I fiddled around with the wire, from my perch. The small end of the wire looked to be the same size as a port on my cell phone and on a lark I inserted it. The phone immediately sparked, and then up popped a ghostly picture of my cousin standing in a blizzard atop Mount Borah. We began chatting over the Pictaphone. I said, “How are you cousin? You know that I dream about you often.” He smiled that forever mischievous smile of his, which reminded me of the glory days, when we would see each other at the beginning of each summer. And check each other out to make sure that society and school headucation hadn’t squeezed out every last bit of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer out of us. We were usually okay, but one year I noticed that Phil had to look me over a second time; in that supra-intuitive way of his before deciding I hadn’t tarnished yet. And then we laughed those childhood natural laughs and sprinted off into his back yard to freely display our proud b-b gun marksmanship skills on the cans strategically pre-placed atop his back fence. Never at birds though, only the tin cans, pinging us with resounding rewards, in the Pennsylvania Amish hills.
I spoke into the phone with great echo, “I’m sorry didn’t go to your funeral Phil. You know it happened at a bad time for me. Just when I was getting better from that last bad thing. People choose to grieve in different ways you know, and this is convoluted way was the only method I could figure out how to talk about it.” Suddenly, I was shocked and the phone zipped out of my pocket and into the leaf-pile, twenty feet down. Then the rain started increasing and a wind gust blew over the ladder.
Now I was in a pickle. Nobody was around with this rain. But, that was fine. I didn’t want anyone to see me foolishly pining in an oak about my long lost cousin, in this lightning storm. Maybe, with this newly acquired wire, I could fish the cell phone out of the leaf pile, while I could still see its imprint. I could call somebody after the calm. No, it’s best not to go fishing around with a lightning rod in this tempest. I’ll just chuck that metal aside. Forget that robin’s nest too, it’s turned into a green hornets nest for me. I will stick Jim Thorpe in my pocket for good luck before I make this giant leap. Good thing those leaves are stacked high. Well, here goes…