|Our hand built cabin in 1979. My mother visited once we had a roof over our heads.|
In 1976 we (my then husband Mike and our four kids) moved to northern Vermont as part of the huge tide of back-to-the-landers making their way to rural areas to homestead in lieu of city life. When cleaning the closet in my cottage recently, I came across several hard cover floppy disks with "Cabin" written on them containing what I assumed were the typed copies of my original handwritten journals I kept about our Vermont experience. I sent them off to a company that offered to convert old files to something more readable on modern computers. Herewith is a portion of one of those recovered diaries with a further description meant for a collection I was making for the kids.
Diary entry: It was twelve degrees outside this morning when we got up. We ate breakfast, piled kids and dogs and tools into the truck and went to the cabin site in Danville. We spent the morning trimming trees and clearing brush. Even little Cassie helped. Bren and Kenny wielded hatchets. Straddling the trees Mike felled, they hacked at the smaller branches. Then Mike took the chainsaw and cut off all the larger limbs.
He is busy cutting trees. The woods are full of fallen giants. The snow is still deep, making it difficult to get around. Though I know the trees will offer us shelter as house walls, my heart hurts at the sight of them lying broken and helpless on the ground. I wish I could come to terms somehow with the tree spirits that now haunt our woods.
"Tim-berrrr!" Mike yelled.
The kids and I scrambled out of the way as the branches of the big spruce whistled past us. The tree landed with a thud that shook the ground. Immediately the kids swarmed over it, hacking at the smaller branches with their hatchets. Cassie tromped through the snow making a path to drag the debris to the growing pile near the edge of the woods. Mike set the chainsaw down and wiped his forehead with his sleeve. "It's not much above twenty degrees," he said, "and still I'm sweating."
He glanced up toward the tops of two trees that leaned against each other in a tangle of boughs. "I've got to free the one that's hung up." He pointed to the partially cut trunk of the nearest tree. "I'll tie a rope to it and you can pull while I cut."
"Won't it fall on me if I'm pulling it?" I asked.
"Just pull hard enough to dislodge it," he said, "then drop the rope and run in the opposite direction."
I kicked at the deep snow with my boot. "I will get about two feet away in this stuff," I complained. "That tree is going to fall on my head."
"I'll be careful," Mike promised. "If it looks like it's going to fall your way, I'll grab the rope and pull it around."
He tied one end of the rope around the tree as high up as he could reach and handed the other end to me.
"Pull it taut," he directed. He started the chain saw and stepped to the base of the trunk.
I backed up until the rope stretched in a straight line from my hands to the tree. It wasn't very large around but it was tall. Its spindly trunk reached into the sky over my head.
"Start pulling!" hollered Mike as the blade bit into the tree trunk.
I leaned back, setting my weight against the rope. Mike cut the trunk clean through but the tree didn't budge.
"I'll have to cut the other one, too," he said. "Their branches are so tangled that the one that's still standing is holding up the one I just cut. Give me the rope. I'm going to tie it to the other tree."
"Won't the two of them fall together if you just cut the second one?" I asked, hoping to get out of harm's way.
"I don't think so," Mike said, handing me the rope. He yanked on the chainsaw's cord.
I backed away, nearly falling as I pushed through the deep snow with my heels. The chainsaw buzzed, there was a sharp cracking sound and a sudden, terrible yell from Mike.
The first tree struck the back of my neck and head, knocking me to my knees. The second pushed me face down in the snow. The branches sighed down around me, pressing me more deeply into the snow with their weight. I heard Mike shouting, but his voice seemed to come from a great distance. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't see. I turned my head to free my face from the snow and cried out in pain.
"Are you all right? Are you alright?" Mike's voice was hoarse with fright. "Don't move. Stay still. I have to cut the main trunk."
The saw buzzed above me and suddenly the weight lifted. "Mommy, Mommy," cried Cassie. "Come out!"
Five pairs of hands pulled at the tree branches until I was able to roll out from under them. Brendan pointed to my face. "You have a big red mark," he said, his eyes wide and frightened.
"Why did you pull the trees on your head?" Kenny wanted to know. "Why didn't you and Mike just push them from behind?"
Mike took my arm and helped me walk to a nearby stump. He made a ball of snow and handed it to me for my bruise. Cassie and Jen leaned close. My legs shook and my head ached.
"I am okay," I reassured them. I took the snowball away from my face and there was blood on it.
"I'm sorry, Pauline," Mike said. "The book said that a tree falls against the cut. I really didn't think they'd fall on you. It's a good thing the snow is so deep or..." He stopped, seeing the fright on the kids' faces.
And here the entry stops! It all ended well. I had a headache that night and the next day, but the deep snow and the myriad of needled branches saved me from getting killed. I have two more disks to send to the data recovery company. I hope they are as revealing!