Simple things can be the most fun

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2006

“Griffin has something he wants to ask you,” my son said to me.

Our older son, Jeff, and his family had arrived on Friday night for a weekend visit, and we were sitting around the table after supper.

Griffin, who is 4 years old and the only grandson, had already asked me if we could blow leaves the next day.

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I had introduced him to the leaf blower a few weeks earlier, and he thought it was as cool as I do.

Now, though, he was being unusually reticent.

His request finally came out. “Can we cut down a tree?”

Griffin had been told the story about George Washington cutting down the cherry tree, Jeff explained. “I’m afraid he didn’t quite get the message.”

We have a good sprinkling of trees on our half hill – maples and oaks and beeches and dogwoods – and I am fairly attached to all of them.

There were a couple of dead trees on the place, though. One of them is a mature tree that died several years ago.

It is in a place where a falling limb, or even a falling tree, wouldn’t cause any real damage as long as no one was standing under it, so I left it standing for the woodpeckers.

There was also a smaller tree, only three or four inches across. I hadn’t gotten around to cutting it because it wasn’t harming anything by standing there.

“I think we can find one,” I said.

Griffin reminded me of my promise early the next morning.

“Do we want to cut it with the chain saw or an ax?” I asked.

My weapon of choice would have been the chainsaw, but that wouldn’t be authentic. Anyway, we certainly couldn’t let Griffin wield a chain saw.

My son and I agreed to watch Griffin and his younger sister while our wives had a girls’ day out.

After they departed, I dug out my small camping ax and gave the blade a touch up with a file.

Bundled against the cold wind whipping across the lake, we marched down the hill, woodsmen all.

I took the first few whacks. Although the tree was dead, the trunk was still solid. After a few blows, I remembered why the old photos of boxers in training camp showed them chopping wood.

Thayer, our granddaughter, decided it was too cold, so she retreated to the side deck where she could stand out of the wind.

My son swung the ax a few times and then carefully guided Griffin in swinging the ax. He had the concept, but not the muscle, and only a few chips fell.

We passed the ax around again, and when the tree was almost ready to fall, Jeff let Griffin take the last few swings while he surreptitiously gave the trunk a hard push.

The tree wasn’t very tall, but it leaned into another small tree, so I fired up the chain saw and made short work of cutting it into pieces.

We took pictures, of course, of the work in progress.

It was dark when the girls got home, but Griffin insisted on taking his grandmother down the hill with a flashlight so that she could examine his handiwork.

Looking back, I don’t think we ever wanted to show off our work to the grownups when we got old enough to “borrow” my grandfather’s ax and take to the woods.

Retrospectively, I realize that there was a certain amount of luck involved in all of us growing up with our fingers, toes and eyeballs intact.

I’m glad my grandson’s parents and grandparents are a little more particular about safety than ours were.

With the advantage of hindsight, I am not so sure that Griffin missed the entire message of George Washington and the cherry tree.

Yes, George was an honest boy, but he cut down the tree because it was fun. It might be heresy to say so, but cutting down a tree still can be fun.

-Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at