Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Forgotten Wedge"

30 Day Writing Challenge

Something you like to share.

One friend always carries tootsie rolls in his pocket.  Whether I see him at church, a funeral, or the post office, he has a tootsie roll to share.

Another friend, who recently passed away, always carried a joke in his pocket so he'd have something to start a conversation with.  It was not uncommon to sit with him at a church potluck and have him pull out his joke and read it as we began our dinner.  

They were both quick to share.

I like to share stories.  I read the following story thirty years ago and mentally tucked it away.  Time and time again I have pulled it out and thought of it.  Like my friends who share things from their pockets, I want to share this story with you:

Ice Art on the kitchen window

“The ice storm wasn’t generally destructive. True, a few wires came down, and there was a sudden jump in accidents along the highway. … Normally, the big walnut tree could easily have borne the weight that formed on its spreading limbs. It was the iron wedge in its heart that caused the damage.

“The story of the iron wedge began years ago when the white-haired farmer was a lad on his father’s homestead. The sawmill had then only recently been moved from the valley, and the settlers were still finding tools and odd pieces of equipment scattered about.

“On this particular day, it was a faller’s wedge — wide, flat and heavy, a foot or more long and splayed from mighty poundings — which the lad found in the south pasture. Because he was already late for dinner, the lad laid the wedge between the limbs of the young walnut tree his father had planted near the front gate. He would take the wedge to the shed right after dinner, or sometime when he was going that way.

“He truly meant to, but he never did. [The wedge] was there between the limbs, a little tight, when he attained his manhood. It was there, now firmly gripped, when he married and took over his father’s farm. It was half grown over on the day the threshing crew ate dinner under the tree. Grown in and healed over, the wedge was still in the tree the winter the ice storm came.

“In the chill silence of that wintry night one of the three major limbs split away from the trunk and crashed to the ground. This so unbalanced the remainder of the top that it, too, split apart and went down. When the storm was over, not a twig of the once-proud tree remained.

“Early the next morning, the farmer went out to mourn his loss.

“Then, his eyes caught sight of something in the splintered ruin. ‘The wedge,’ he muttered reproachfully. ‘The wedge I found in the south pasture.’ A glance told him why the tree had fallen. Growing, edge-up in the trunk, the wedge had prevented the limb fibers from knitting together as they should.” (Samuel T. Whitman, “Forgotten Wedge”)

One reason I haven't forgotten the story is we have ice storms and trees.  Just last week the town shut down because of an ice storm.  Kids literally skated and played hockey in the streets.  

Another reason is the previous owner of our home left a metal grate in the fork of one of the willow trees in the front yard.  That tree has grown around the metal and claimed it as its own.  At one time or another, we've all tried to pull that grate out and it won't move.  Is a grate as lethal as a wedge? 

The main reason I have never forgotten the story is because of its message: “Don’t store things in your heart that will weaken you."  Bad habits and grudges act as infected slivers that fester and ooze until they're removed or cause us to fall.

The homemaker and teacher in me, who spends a good deal of time each day putting things away that others leave behind (paper, pencils, bowls, shoes, socks, coats, gloves, lunches), recognizes the rather obvious message of “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Either message, it’s a good little story with a good moral.  And irony, too.  Who’d have ever guessed a tree could die from a sliver.  I suppose that is the final moral to the story:  none of us are immune from storing a wedge in our heart that could cause us to fall.

1 comment:

Going bananas said...

I like stories too. This is one I read recently that I liked.