- Bill Feight
The Crooked Tree; Nickki
The Crooked Tree
No, I’m not wanted by the law or anything like that. It’s just that I am, well crooked. I just popped up out of a discarded seed or something. I really can’t remember back before I was sort of a seedling just new to this world. I do remember it was cold in the winter. I tried to hold onto my one leaf the first year like it was the end of the world. Actually, I really thought it was when the first snow came. I was covered in snow taller than I was at the time. I know I am over 40 feet high now, but I wasn’t always that tall.
I just know that it was cold and dark. Well, dark anyway after the snow came. I should tell you that I am an old oak tree. One of the few in town. Well, I am in town now. Back then there was just the Courthouse and General Store, oh yea, and Larry’s. I am not sure what Larry’s is, but everybody seems to talk about it.
This story is not really about me, as much as it is the bird. Nickki was a nice little bird, very colorful and not much bigger than one of my acorns.
My part of the story is how big I am. Once I started to grow there seemed to be no stopping me. It was slow but I grew a little each year for about 5 years. Then a couple boys thought it would be funny if I were to grow along the ground instead of up away from it. I am right in the center of what might be called a safety zone between the sidewalk and highway. It is the biggest highway around. All the other roads are small by the highway standard. About half the width and some of them aren’t even paved. Just a bunch of stones cover them.
Those boys came back every year and kept me tied horizontal to the ground for many years. Finally they moved or at least went away after many years. By that time I was longer than I was tall. The next year I grew bigger around than the rope that was holding me from growing up and I broke it. What a relief, I started to grow again and reached toward the stars every night.
That was a long time ago, and there are two more boys in the house beside me now. Our country has now been through two wars, if not more, and I am big enough to be a landmark. Kids and people look at me and say, “so that’s the house by the crooked tree.” They widened the highway a few years ago, and took out a lot of my friends that were a lot younger than I am, but I am still here almost in the center of town.
Those two boys that moved in after I was big would climb or even run up my flat trunk and make snow balls in my crotch to throw at the oncoming traffic. They seemed to think it was great fun, and really so did I. That is until someone would stop at the station next door. Then they would take off running as fast as I ever saw anyone move. The lady in the house would usually paddle the older boy saying “You should set a better example for your brother”. Those were some of the best times to be a crooked tree. Nobody seemed to know that I could really listen and tell all the other trees about them at night.
Then came the day that a funny looking green/yellow and white with some red on it something, came flying out of the house beside me and flew into the middle of my branches. It must have been a bird because it flew with wings, but it was smaller than a sparrow. That thing could talk the leaves right off your branches. I am not sure ‘talk’ was the right word, he sang everything.
He could sing a Polka, and something called a “Chickery Chick.” He said things like “Wake up Bill, you’re gonna be late,” “Don’t make me come up there,” and “Billy, don’t let him drink out of your glass.” I got to know that little bird quite well that afternoon. The lady that lived there came out and tried to catch the little bird by climbing me, but the little bird would just fly a little higher. That bird was really frightened of the noise of the highway though. Every time a big truck came by it would fly to the other side of me and hide. Nickki seemed to know all about me, and asked me why I got naked in the winter. “What do you mean naked?” I asked.
“Well, you sort of turn all sorts of colors and then all the color falls away and all you are is a bunch of sticks and a big trunk of wood standing there in the snow.”
“I go to sleep for the winter like all the other trees do. Except for those Pine Trees, I think they are a little stir crazy. They say those little needles they have on keeps them warm. I don’t see how though.” I was telling Nickki how the Pine trees all seemed to stay awake all winter and went to sleep every night in the summertime.
Nickki asked me if I ever saw the little brown and white dog that lived with them in the house. “Yes,” I said, “I really don’t like him, or any dogs for that matter. They all want to mark me or something. It is really messy and doesn’t smell very good. I guess that is what dogs do though.”
Nickki was saying that he really did not like that little dog. It always tried to tease him and snap at him when the lady was gone. The dog wouldn’t go into the dining room though and that is where Nickki’s cage was. He said they never closed the door though and that is why he could sit in the front window and watch me. He said “I was his favorite tree.”
That made me feel super virtuous, I know I am the biggest thing around, but it sure felt stimulating that I was good also. We talked a lot that afternoon about trees and leaves, dogs and cats. Neither of us liked those either.
It had been one of my best days ever. The spring sun was warm and I found a new friend. Trees don’t have a lot of other friends you know.
The afternoon was mostly over when Nickki’s boy came home and I could hear the lady telling him how Nickki had escaped. The boy had a sad look on his face until he saw Nickki up in the tree near the top. He yelled and hollered as loud as he could. “Come on Nickki, Here Nickki,” and stuck his finger up in the air like a place for the little bird to land. Just about then a big truck came by and like many trucks it blew its air horn right under me. It was so loud and windy my newly formed leaves shook like the very wind. I think it both scared Nickki and blew him off one of my limbs.
In the process of falling he spread his wings and landed safely, softly and quickly on the boy’s outstretched finger. With a huge smile on his face the boy walked back into the house with the bird on his finger.
That was the last I ever saw of Nickki, well not really, he used to watch me through the front window of the house for a few years. I heard that nasty dog finally got him one day, but the boys both moved away a few years later. I saw the younger boy for several years, but the older one just sort of disappeared. I saw him once many years later. He had changed a lot, but he did climb up in my safe little crotch and looked around. He really didn’t fit as good as he had before..