I’m a tree hugger, and proud of it


Yes, I am a tree hugger and proud of it. When we had our house built some 12 years ago, The Wife and I got into a huge fight.

No, not between each other — we never fight. Our struggle was with the developer. He wanted to cut down all trees within 50 feet of where our house would sit. Some of the old growth, hardwood trees were so large that it would take three men to reach around them. When asked why he would do such a grievous thing, his answer was simple, “We always do it, so they won’t fall on the house.” Our answer to his statement was also simple and to the point. No they won’t, and no you won’t.

Yes, I’m a tree hugger, but it’s not a recent development. Being so has saved my life on more than one occasion. You see I’ve been hugging trees since a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

For those seven wonderful years my three brothers, The Sister, and I spent growing up there were some things that weren’t so wonderful. Or I should say someone. And that someone was Bradley McAllister aka Down the Street Bully Brad. Bully Brad is the person who turned me into the tree hugger I am today.

Confused and can’t see the forest because of all the trees? Just keep on reading, Dear Reader. A path to understanding will be clear-cut soon enough.

Bully Brad made it his mission in life to beat up at least one person every week. That person was usually yours truly. The only way to escape a beating was not to get caught. Sometimes I could out-pedal him on my bike. Other times I could outrun him. (Luckily for me bullies aren’t terribly fleet footed.) But all of the time I could out climb him.

That is if I reached a tree before he caught up with me. Once I started to climb, I always knew safety was just a few higher branches away. Bully Brad stayed on the ground throwing rocks and dirt clods, but he seldom followed me up the tree. That was especially true after the great tree house incident.

During the summer of our third year living on Flamingo, my brothers and I built a tree house. Not just any tree house, mind you. It was a tree house where no girls or bullies were allowed. We put up signs stating so but knew Bully Brad wouldn’t pay any attention to them.

So we decided we would bully-trap the third step going up to our tree house. The two-by-four was secured with a single nail to the tree instead of four like the rest. It worked.

Soon after the tree house was finished, Bully Brad chased me to the base of the huge oak in which it was built. In his rage rush up the ladder after me, he failed to notice I had skipped over the third step. Reaching for my leg, he also reached the third step. He fell to the ground in a crumpled mass of bully.

Not only did Bully Brad suffer from the restorative justice doled out by the law of gravity, but he also landed in a nasty nest of chiggers. The only thing angrier than him for the next three weeks were the itchy red swollen bumps caused by said chiggers.

That was the last time I ever saw him climb a tree, and I’ve been a tree hugger ever since. Now I’m teaching our Granddaughters how to climb. As of right now, they don’t have any bullies to contend with, but they have already met the adversary worse than Bully Brad.

Chiggers. The six- to eight-legged mite travels in hoards numbering in the thousands. The mite, I might add, has one nasty bit. After digging into your skin, the bite will itch for about three weeks. An insect you can barely even see will cause you horrible pain just because you climbed a tree they happened to live in or around. Explain that to a 3- or 4-year-old who stays up all night scratching.

Chiggers. Being a tree hugger, I know everything in nature has a reason for being, but as of yet I’ve found absolutely no reason for chiggers. If they were eradicated from the Earth, don’t really think anyone would mind. Not even Down the Street Bully Brad.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]