It was early April. The northern winter was getting long and I needed to get away, so I headed south to greet spring.
After a couple of days I arrived in a small town in the higher elevation forest lands. It was a warm, sunny, spring day and the snow was melting well and I parked the truck and walked through the quaint small town. The people were friendly and the town was clean and had a beauty. There was much talk among the people as they enjoyed coffee and such at the outside tables at various food venues. I decided to stop at one and have a coffee.
I sat at a table enjoying my coffee and soaking up the warm spring sunshine. My attention shifted to the conversation at the table nearest me. They were talking about the possible lumber mill closure and how it would affect their town as it was their primary source of jobs. Those at other tables joined in; some angerly, saying the timber harvest quota reduction was unfounded and biased. I sat at my table with my coffee listening indifferently.
I noticed there were a lot of people in the small town and was told that there was a local lumberjack event on down at the park. It was to start in half an hour. They invited me to join them at the park.
I lingered a while and had a second cup of coffee while I watched and listened to the life of the town. I decided to go watch the event at the park and went back to my truck and got my camera.
I took pictures of the town and its sites and walked to the park. There was already a gathering of folk there as I entered the park area. There was still a foot of snow on the ground and in the treed and shady areas but the park fair ground area was cleared to the sandy soil.
It was then that I noticed a commotion over to one side of the park by the small lake. A crowd was gathering over there and I heard a loud voice coming from there as I headed over to check it out.
As I approached I saw a man donned in pole climbing gear start up the only living tree right next to the lake. I looked up when I was near and saw an early 30’s man with wild, long, blondish hair with a large grin on his face. He was loudly stating that the forest needed to be protected from loggers and that the timber harvest should be eliminated. A small crowd of his supporters stood before him; some were holding signs with various sayings. Some of the locals began engaging him and his supporters in an earnest, rapid discussion.
I wasn’t so much looking at or listening to the crowd as I was looking at the very tall and slender pine tree. It was devoid of branches until near the top where there were green needled branches. I knew that it had been part of a recent forested area and that the other pines trees had been removed after the pine beetle infestation. I saw that the tree bowed some toward the lake right down the short but steep bank. I also noticed that as he climbed higher and higher that the tree began to bow a little more. The man would stop for a bit each time he went a bit higher to loudly make his statements.
Suddenly, he climbed even higher to the thinner upper part of the tall, skinny tree. I grew alarmed, moved forward and yelled for him to stop climbing; he laughed at me, smiled and went up some more. I saw the old tree begin to move top down lakeside and I rushed forward as it began to fall over and I looked in horror as it snapped off at its base revealing inner orange coloured rotten wood.
There was snow still on some of the rotting ice on the lake and I thought it would land there but it twisted part way down and was now headed for where there was no snow left on the thin, rotted ice. I yelled for help and put my shoulder into the tree to direct it back to the snow but it pushed me aside easily. I looked up to see a body strapped to the tree with eyes wide open, and a scared face looking down at us as he fell back first to the snowless patch on the lake.
The tree crashed hard against the lake taking him with it as the top went under. I regained my footing in the snow, grasped the tree end in my armpit and leaped on it as there was some large object under the snow. The top end of the tree popped out of the water with the man gasping for air. I couldn’t hold it and he and the tree top went back down under the water. The man was still strapped to the tree and I had to yell at the men to help. They all seemed frozen in shock. We grabbed the tree and pushed our end downward and he came up out of the water. We all pulled on the tree and got him to shore.
A few minutes later he came walking up past me smiling with the paramedics who took him to the hospital. I was still a bit in shock and even more so as he was able to walk past me smiling at all who were there. I was very happy and relieved that we had gotten him out in time.
That evening, after the lumberjack event, I sat at a local restaurant eating a hardy supper. Some folks noticed me and came over to me excited by the tree event. We were still in discussion when another fellow came over and asked me if I was the guy that saved the man in the tree. Those who were there with me affirmed that I was.
“That was quite something that you did.” he said. “Too bad he died.” he continued.
“What?” I asked.
“Yeah.” he replied. “He split open his liver when he hit the lake. He bled out internally.” he stated and left.
I sat there silently in shock and disbelief, drank my coffee, paid my bill, walked to my truck and started for home.