The tree has a long and sordid history, starting with when it killed my uncle Luke back in ’87. He was clearing brush from around the edges of my grandparents’ property. As he was raking up pine needles underneath the tree on a clear and windless day, somehow a branch spontaneously snapped off, landing directly on the crown of his head and killing him instantly. I was too young to remember him, but my parents told me about it years later.
In ’90 my grandparents found a deceased homeless man propped at the base of the tree’s trunk. They lived in a small town two hours from the nearest city, and the cops could provide no answer as to why the man had decided to bring himself up to the tiny northern town, much less how he’d died. Not two months after that a local boy plowed into the tree on his four-wheeler and painted the trunk with his brains. The tree is by an off-road bike trail, sure, but it’s prominent and practically the only obstacle on the whole route.
Four years after my cousin died in nearly the same way, only he was on a dirt bike. Travis was always reckless, but he was an experienced rider, and after what had happened to the other boy he should have been extra-cautious of the pine. Grandma was the one that found him. She said his helmet had all but disintegrated, and what was left of his head looked like “…a tomato that’s been stepped on.” My aunt’s wails at the funeral still haunt my dreams. Continue reading