Then, early one morning a few weeks ago, I was out front with my clippers, gamely attacking the hedges that threatened to obscure the house from the road, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a car pull into the driveway. It was indeed a car, though "rolling rust bucket" would also describe it.... A scrawny young man emerged and strode purposefully in my direction, across the lawn meadow. At least he strode as purposefully as it is possible to stride when your over-sized tee shirt and long, baggy shorts are flapping loosely about your bony frame.
I had one cynical eyebrow cocked, wondering who on earth this was and what possible business he might have with me, when he stopped a few feet in front of me and handed me a grimy, dog-eared business card.
"Arborist Tree Service" it said, followed by a phone number and list of available services.
" Free Estimates!" it proclaimed across the bottom and gave his name, Mike, and a mere initial where his surname should have been----witness protection program anyone??
While I read his card he launched into a fast talking spiel about an estimate for cutting down trees. We were still in the throes of hurricane season, so anything was possible. Some of the pine trees on our lot were leaning at alarming angles, and he was painting a lurid picture of the trouble we'd have if a hurricane hit. I had ample opportunity, while he babbled away, to take in his elaborately tattooed, scrawny calves and his five, six, or even, possibly, seven o'clock shadow. I was feeling neither a surge of human kindness nor a whole lot of trust at this stage. In fact I was thinking I should tell him to leave, and then go in the house and dig out the card I had taken from a perfectly respectable, licensed and insured, untattooed, adequately nourished arborist who had given me an estimate a few weeks earlier.
Mike, my visitor, optimistically quoted some ridiculous figure to take down and remove the five worst offenders. By this time the Bean, who was home at the time, and Miss Oriss, who had been about to leave to run errands but found her exit blocked by the rust bucket, had both come out to join the party.
" How much to just drop the trees?" asked the Bean, who is well able to wield a chain saw and haul the logs to the dump himself.
A much more reasonable price was quoted and Hillbilly Mike ran like a rabbit for the first tree and vroom-vroomed the chain saw before I could blink. He had cut half way through the trunk before my shouts got through to him.
"I would like to see your license before you start, " I bellowed. He had assured me that he was licensed in the county. I could call the courthouse if I wanted to check on him.
Muttering darkly, he strode, flapping all the way, back to the rust bucket, where his sidekick, a large chubby youth with angelic curls and multiple piercings, was lazily firing up another chain saw. I followed Mike to the rust bucket and found him sitting therein in a state of agitation, frantically searching for his "license."
He found something eventually. I could see why it had taken him so long.. The rust bucket appeared to be doubling as a rubbish bin. I have never seen a filthier vehicle. As he scrawled a number on a filthy old envelope, he told me that the license was in his wife's name. I couldn't help myself. I had to ask.
"How does your wife having an arborist's license qualify you to cut down trees?"
Chubby sidekick to the rescue, because our boy, Mike, was getting very irritated now.
"It's just a business license Ma'am, " he drawled.
The air was filled with vrooming, then a mighty crash and the first tree was down, mercifully without damage to pool cage or neighbour's fence.
The fourth tree was the first one they needed to rope. Since their colleague with a truck was "on another job" would the Bean mind helping them by bringing our truck around to the back? I had overheard enough of an exchange between Mike and Chubby Boy to know they didn't want to have to share the loot with Truck Boy. The Bean thought about it for half a second and decided to let them use their truck since we were paying them and he didn't want to risk having to explain any damage to our truck to his father.
At this point Hillbilly Mike suggested that we might pay them for what they had done so far, and they would return later in the day to finish. My own feeling was that once we got this motley crew off our property I wasn't eager to have them come back. The Bean figured they were anxious for a little recreational drug break, having noted the scarcity of teeth in Hillbilly Mike's head, so he told them if they left, and anyone was intoxicated when they returned, there would be no more work for them here.
Their efforts with the rope made the Bean remark that part of the money we were paying them should be for the comedy.
Finally with all five trees safely down, we gave them their money and they took to their heels.
Now we have, not only a meadow, but a meadow with less shade, fewer heebie jeebies about unanticipated crash of trees in high winds, and all sorts of wildlife habitat created by the felled trees. It will be a while before the Bean gets the chain saw going and the logs hauled away. Meanwhile our "garden" is more wildlife friendly than ever.