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Thursday, December 6, 2012

C'mon Myrtle; let's go get us a byrtle.

First of all, there is no such thing as a byrtle. But that's what the Farmer calls the big lump growing on the side of a tree. We used to call them pregnant trees when I was growing up. Anyhoo, the Farmer found this lumpy tree when he was on walkabout - or rideabout - one day. He decided he would cut the 'byrtle' off the tree and make something out of it. The tree was already dead, so no worries there. He said he saw a horned owl fly out of a tree in the same neck of the woods, so I decided to go with him. I like owls.

I also had my own agenda for this particular ATV ride. I was searching our 200 acres for a pine tree so that I could cut boughs for my urns on the porch. Pine with its long needles just looks so much more elegant than spruce. It's so Martha Stewart. The Farmer swore we had only one pine tree on the property: the one that stood in the middle of the pasture. The one that the horse and donkey had eaten all the lower branches off of. I couldn't believe it, and told him we had to search the other 199 acres.

Being on the ATV behind the Farmer reminds me of when we were first dating. Oldest trick in the book: take a girl on a ride so she has to wrap her arms around you and hold on tight. He took me on a ride through the forest at dusk once. Stopped the bike in the middle of the forest and hopped off, saying he had to go check something out. He was gone one minute, then two...I couldn't see him in the shadows anymore. Suddenly my mind started racing. What if something had happened to him? What if something was going to happen to me? My heart pounded in my chest. It was pitch dark. And then he appeared in the headlight, grinning. And I have never again agreed to an ATV ride at dusk.

I was thinking the horse probably would have been a much smoother ride over the ploughed field, but maybe I'm wrong. It's possible that sitting on the big Belgian's back as she travelled over the ruts would have been every bit as wobbly as it was on the ATV. I felt like I was riding an elephant, and worried I was doing permanent damage to my spine.

We travelled over two fields and through a forest and another meadow. "End of the road," the Farmer announced, turning off the bike. We climbed off and picked our way through a dense bush. He pointed out ancient rusty pails lined up beside a crooked rail fence. "That's where the old farmer used to sit," he decided.

The last time he was in the area, the Farmer tied white ribbons around the tree branches to mark his path. And it's a good thing, or we might still be wandering out there. Every section of the woods looks the same. Just call me Gretel.

So eventually we found his 'byrtle', but no owls were in sight. My husband sawed the thin tree trunk above and below the lump, which was about six times wider than the tree itself. Then he realized he had to carry the thing. We had totally forgotten to bring a rope so that we could carry the thing between us. He had to set it down every few yards, but we got it back to the bike. And now he says he's going to make me something out of it. A table top, or bowl, or shelf.

At dinner that night, my father-in-law also used the nonexistent word 'byrtle'. At least I know where the Farmer got it from. I told him it wasn't in any dictionary, under any spelling. Then my son-in-law piped up. "That's because it's a burl." B-u-r-l. Well of course it is. The quiet one at the end of the table is wise beyond his years, I tell you.

But the Farmer was right about one thing. There is only one pine tree on our property. I watched as he drove back to the tree, stood on the seat of his ATV and reached up to cut me some Martha Stewart branches. They're lovely.

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