The first week of April, I surveyed the neglected tree line along our dirt road, stood akimbo, and inhaled a deep breath of reality.

“It will take weeks for me to remove the mess with my pruners and your Sawzal,” I later reported to Mel. “Let’s call James.”

He agreed.

Several days later at 8 a.m., James, tall and thin with a black beard and teeth white as the bloodroot bloom, parked his truck and machinery in our driveway. A young man assisted James as I approached and welcomed them.

“Good morning! This is Daniel,” James said.

I shook Daniel’s hand. “Thanks for helping James. Let me know if you need anything,” I said, and left them to their work.

While I returned emails at my desk, I relaxed with a sense of relief. Yet, hired help confirmed the fact my body can no longer sustain the labor of pulling up invasive vines from the earth – a new found sport thirty-four years ago when Fritz Builders constructed our house.

I recalled the drizzly, chilly day Mel and I rented a hole digger for planting trees on our property. Mainly evergreens. Three dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, tributes to Kim, a friend who introduced me to the gorgeous attraction in her suburban front yard.

I’d forgotten how the three fiery, perfectly shaped red maples, Acer Rubrum, came to grace the hind part of our property. One, the red maple I’ve christened “Storytelling Tree” for whenever the spirit of story moves me or a visitor, stands nearby the fire pit. (Children seem to prefer chicken stories to any other.)

The red maple is native to North America and a member of the Sapindaceae (soapberry) family. The species comes in second to the Cottonwood as the fastest-growing on our land, and in the Eastern United States. Although the wind in cottonwood leaves sounds alluring, the bothersome cotton the Populus deltoids sheds dares me to curse.

A great-great granddaughter of Larken McCoy, a logger-farmer-builder who cleared his land and built his two-story homeplace in the McCoy Bottom along Peter Creek, Kentucky, I’ve inherited a bit of his spirit. However, I’ll endure those cottonwoods, leave their fate to the owner who follows our steps on this homestead.

By the way, James returned yesterday with his wife Ashely to complete the job.

“Where’s Daniel?” I asked.

“He had a previous commitment,” James said. “He’s working seventy hours a week because our trade can’t find enough help.”

If only I were younger, I thought.

“James, I found a fine boulder where you’re wrapping up this morning. When you’re finished, could you help me move the boulder with our dolly?”


Ashely smiled. “James’ mother would ask the same thing.”

Dear Reader, James moved not only that beautiful boulder, but three, to the entrance of our driveway.

“There’s large rock other there, do you want it?” James asked.


He set the rock atop a boulder. “There!”

I smiled. “My little Stonehenge.”

A monument to my ancestors. Loggers. Farmers. Builders.

Contact Iris at