When I finished working at the farm yesterday, I came home and planted the flower beds, an exercise in futility perhaps since we won’t be here most of the summer to take care of and enjoy them but I love getting my hands into the soil at this time of year and I want the place to look somewhat cared for while we’re gone.
We love our yard but it will never be the showcase that some people’s are. We don’t stay home long enough, especially in the summer! One of my favourite features of our yard is Norman the tree. Yes, unlike the rest of the trees and plants in the yard, this one has a name! It also has a story.
In the summer of 1994, we were returning from a trip to the Yukon and were somewhere near the BC/Yukon border when a wheel bearing went on the tent trailer that we were pulling. Richard jacked up the trailer, removed the wheel and he and Matthew drove back to Watson Lake, the closest community, to have the necessary repairs done. I waited by the road with Melaina and Nathan.
What does one do to entertain two ten year olds for almost three hours on a hot summer day in the middle of nowhere? Hiking into the bush was out of the question as I didn’t want us to get lost or eaten by bears so we were limited to the road allowance. We went for walks along the highway, endured the bugs, read, played cards, picked wild strawberries and built a fort using trees, sticks and our jackets.
Hundreds of tiny evergreen seedlings grew alongside the road. One of them was a perfect mini Christmas tree shape. Imagine Richard’s lack of enthusiasm when he returned hot and dusty only to discover that, in addition to putting the trailer back together, his wife wanted him to find the folding shovel that was buried beneath everything else in the back of the vehicle so that she could dig up a tree! I know that removing trees from crown land is probably not an entirely legal thing to do but I also know that the ones growing along the road allowance are mowed down from time to time to keep visibility clear for drivers. That perfect little tree wouldn’t survive if I didn’t rescue it! Being the patient husband that he is, Richard indulged this craziness and found the shovel. I dug up my tiny prize and temporarily housed it in the plastic garbage container that we carried in the vehicle. When we camped across the highway from the Liard River Hot Springs that evening, I planted it in an ice cream pail and there it stayed until we got home and it took up permanent residence in our backyard. In the 17 years that have passed, it has grown into a stately and still perfectly shaped tree. I remember waiting patiently for it to get big enough for its first string of Christmas lights and then, in no time, it grew so big that it was too difficult to bother stringing lights on it anymore.
The name was given by the children who were reading a hilarious book entitled The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks by Nancy McArthur that summer. Norman was one of the main characters. I resisted for a long time thinking that my brother, Norman, might be offended. I should have known better! He’s definitely not the kind of brother or uncle who would be upset by something like that. In fact, I think he quite likes the idea. Eventually even I began to call the tree Norman.
Richard isn’t as fond of Norman as I am. With his lower branches so close to the ground, he’s difficult to mow around. Richard has actually threatened to cut them off a time or two. I may not have been completely serious when I told him that that might lead to divorce but he hasn’t taken any chances! He also complains that I planted Norman too close to the house but his trunk is actually a full 12 feet from the back corner of the garage. Perhaps Richard’s lack of love for Norman goes all the way back to their rocky beginning on that frustrating day beside the highway but I think that that’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of Norman. After all, he’s not just a landscaping feature, he’s part of our family history!