They must be cutting down more trees, Wayne said as we sat down for lunch yesterday. I've heard the saws off and on all morning. I'd heard them too. I think they're west of us, I replied. At least that's what it sounded like earlier when I took the rugs out to shake them.
The somewhat distant sounds of heavy equipment have been a regular occurrence since they started clear-cutting the pine forest adjacent to our subdivision. They weren't so distant one day as the smell of diesel floated in on the southern breeze. I never saw the grader or whatever other piece of machinery they were using to push the discarded limbs into burn piles but I knew they weren't far on the other side of the buffer of trees that remains between the golf course out our backyard and the deforested land beyond.
But we've grown used to it...to a degree, at least, so I really wasn't thinking much about it as we went about mowing the yard yesterday afternoon. OK, so it was mostly picking up leaves and dead grass but there is some green making an appearance.
Suddenly Wayne came barreling up on the mower. I've got to get the camera, he said excitedly. They're cutting down the tree on No. 5!
"The tree" in this case refers to the one having the power to reach out and snatch a perfectly good shot out of the air and send it off course. It's there, on the right; not the first one you see with the well-defined trunk but the one lurking behind it on this pretty little par-three hole. This photo was taken in 2008 so you can imagine how much more it encroached on the route from the tee in the foreground to the green beyond.
There's a saying in golf that trees are 90% air, implying that a ball can find its way through the leafy growth and miss all the solid limbs. This tree? I don't think it had air. You hit the tree, the ball dropped straight down. Or careened right into one of my neighbor's backyards. The best outcome you could hope for was that it ricocheted left into a waste bunker hiding behind the wetlands vegetation that borders this hole. Yessiree, that tree was hated by all who play here regularly.
It won't be ambushing any more golf balls now, however. They cut it down yesterday.
It was rotten in the center. Now I can't say if that was the reason they cut it down or if our friend/golf professional Hiram was exacting his revenge for the tree abducting his golf ball one too many times. I can tell you there were a lot of happy golfers as they drove up to the No. 5 tee today, Wayne included.
The tree did not go peacefully, however. My friend Bonnie mishit her shot on this hole this morning, sending the ball straight into the fallen trunk before it lurched into the waste bunker. It's as if the tree intends to interfere with the game until every last wood chip is hauled away.
Charlie Brown had his kite-eating tree; Stonebrook had a ball-eating one. It will be missed, but not in a good way. And while it may take some time to get used to this new view, the hole will still be challenging but fairer. That is, if the tree on the right didn't learn the evil ways of the one it lived next to for so many years. Perhaps the sound of chain saws instilled a healthy dose of fear into it's sap and No. 5 will be nemesis-free from now on. We'll hope so anyway.