Friday, June 8, 2012

The Tree, the Dilema and the Future

Tonight before bed I began to think about what I did today and I realized that an important milestone occurred.  When these kind of realizations occur in my mind I am somewhat troubled and somewhat anxious.  It is June of 2012, twenty years ago we were spending quite a lot of time at the old "RV Resort" in the East Bay of Flathead Lake.  Both set of parents had bought into the the resort and as a result we were spending quite a lot of time there.  We stayed in our 20 foot Prowler trailer that we had pulled all over the country, literally.  We had purchased the travel trailer used in 1981 just prior to a trip we made on the Inside Passage from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island BC to Prince Rupert, BC (that in and of itself is another story - but I will save that for another time).  We bought the trailer from a brother of a neighbor of my parents - the Touchetts from Huson, Mt. I had worked for his parents when I was 13 years old on their farm just a quarter mile from where we purchased the trailer (that also is another story for another time).  If I recall right we paid $4000 for the trailer which for us at the time was a considerable amount of money.  Saundra kept a record of our nights in the trailer from the beginning and it was recorded on a piece of paper in the middle drawer of the trailer, this is how it went - Night One - $4000/night, ten nights later it was $400/night, by one hundred nights it was $40/night etc., when we reached $10/night Saundra figured we had gotten our moneys worth.  Some of the places that travel trailer had been since we took possession included: the Inside Passage, several trips to Vancouver Island, the Olympic Peninsula, 5 weeks from Montana across southern Canada and to the historic places of the east from the US standpoint and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints standpoint, numerous trips to the Seeley Swan valley and it's many lakes including Alva, Holland and of course Seeley.  Then we began our regular trips to Flathead and the East Bay.  The number of nights at the RV Resort are lost to memory there were many many of them.  One of the reasosn we were able to stay so often is that I could work my job from there in all of Western MT as easily as from Missoula.  That way our children had the advantage of the pool, the lake, the club house, and their relatives.  It was good for them and all of us, pleasant and many memories (it is hard to number the times that the four grand parents commented on how enjoyable that RV Resort was for all.  (Again some of that is a story for another time.) 

It was on a summer day in 1992 that I got a wild idea (some people would call it a wild dream or an impossible dream) - the idea was that if we were going to spend so much time on Flathead Lake it would be very nice to have a cabin there.  In those days (just like in many days of our life) - it seemed things would go like they were forever.  Somehow then the thought of our parents growing old and even dying were not on our minds (at least not on mine), it seemed that we would be going to the lake for many years to come.  Somehow in that thought process, the RV Resort sometimes became crowded and even with both sets of parents owning a membership that allowed our staying, we were occasionally locked out by to many reservations by other members.  At any rate, no matter what the reason I began to dream and passed that dream on to Saundra.  I developed a habit that summer that as I came and went to work from the RV Resort I started looking at lake property, driving in and out of every road, even private property looking.  In those days unlike now, there were few places for sale, the economy was good and much of the lake was owned by families who had owned the lake front for a generation or two and sometimes more.  What wasn't owned by Montanan's was owned by Californians and others with money.  In fact I was told that the average stay on Flathead Lake in some of the beautiful, expensive homes and cabins was three weeks a year.  (That seemed like such a pity.)  At any rate in this state of affairs I began to look.  I found a few interesting places (it was obvious that we could not even begin to afford some place that had already been built and developed).  Even in those days there were many multimillion dollar places on the lake.  I therefore limited my looking to either non developed lake front or places that had been rundown and required a lot of work and repair (I saw quite a few of those - primarily generational ownership where the remaining owners were grandchildren or great grandchildren who lived elsewhere, or where the ownership was had by too many, or they had no interest.  There were places like one on Highway 35 on the East shore, a place where the old home sat on the highway and the lake front was 300 feet below on an extremely steep hill with no dock or real beach.  Or another we called the "drop of death" on Finley Point where an old cabin hung to the side of the cliff over the lake and a dilapidated, nearly nonexistent stairway led straight down over the cliffs, to a sheer drop off into the lake (an excellent place for kids  - ha! - we had no thought of grand kids at that point).  There were other interesting places along the way, but one day I found what we have.  When I got back to the resort I told Saundra I would cut off my big right toe to be able to buy it (that is another story and I still have both toes even though in my book Bob Scarr big time bad guy lost both toes with gun shots from hero Jep Leavitt).

Well we have had the place twenty years and now we come to why I am writing at 1 am instead of being asleep.  When we first got the place, I cut the lock off the old gate and worked our way up the kinda road that went in.  We found a spot next to about the only thing developed on the place besides an old dock and that was a telephone pole.  There we cleaned up an area and negotiated that travel trailer in by the pole where it would sit until five or so years ago (by now the nights were no longer costing dollars but we down to cents/night).  On with tonight's struggle in my mind - we had a trail down through a literal jungle to the dock at the lake.  We had cut and built early on a trail off the top of the property and then as we neared the lake we had cut through the jungle of vines and trees where now sits the south side of our cabin.  It was so thick you could not see the lake until you were nearly in it.  Again my mind raced ahead and it was not long until I thought we ought to have a place for the boat to be pulled up out of the water and thus began our cabin.  It was sad for Saundra and the kids and even a little for me as I eliminated tree after tree and brush after brush until a spot was cleared where we began to dig a foundation by hand.  It was one of those love/hate things - I wanted what I envisioned , but I didn't want to change what was there.  The project moved slowly forward nonetheless.  (All of that is more than one story for another time).

Now back to this day June 7th, 2012.  Today I cut down a tree, not just any tree, but one that we had all admired from the beginning.  We are not even sure what species of tree it was, we asked some forest service friends, looked in books and were still in the dark as to what it was.  There were no other trees on the property or anywhere else around that were like it, one day I hope to know.  At any rate, a couple of years ago many of the branches of this tree, which sat out the main picture window of the cabin, began to look dead.  I just chalked it up to the lower branches dying like a lot of trees do since the upper branches still looked fine.  Then last fall we notice the whole tree had apparently died - a sad day - especially for Saundra - she loved seeing that tree out the window and it made a nice frame to the left and top view of the lake.  Today I took it down!  I should have taken a picture, but I was running late and didn't get it done.  We have pictures looking out the window and also from the lake looking back, none however of it dead nor laying on the ground.  The tree will be missed - we didn't name it - but it was nonetheless part of the lake place that will be missed.  It will not be buried like Jette nor Abby, some of it will be burned in the fire pit by the lake and some in the stove for warmth next winter.  I have found a place however where at least in my lifetime it will not be forgotten, nor out of sight.  Sixteen feet of the trunk will become the main support on the deck of my carving/workshop studio/shed, and it will hold up the front end of the ridge pole which runs the length of the building out onto the deck.  I will peel the bark, but it still be that tree, it will still be an important part of the lake property, and to me it will still be a great sight.  I will take a picture of it in the future.

It is a pretty sad state of affairs when a person develops such a closeness with rocks and trees as I do, it helps explain how close I feel to family, dogs and friends.  I may be sentimental, but I am grateful for the wonders of the world around us, for the Divine Creation of this and "Worlds without number".  I feel a closeness to it all - maybe that explains some of my meanderings in the mountains and wanderings around this place we call home.  Yes it is a troubling, yet wonderful day.  A tree that caused me so many thoughts and feelings, and that will support something I built for I hope many many years into the future.

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