Home > The Eagle Tree(7)

The Eagle Tree(7)
Ned Hayes

But then I realized that my mother had said my name several times in a row, and she had gripped my arm, and this broke my concentration on the idea of freezing people and looking into their faces without being uncomfortable.

Her grip on my arm made me very uncomfortable, and I stopped breathing. Because she was still gripping my arm, I tried to think back a moment to what she had said before she touched me.

“You can promise Mr. Clayton here that you’ll just climb his tree and you won’t hurt the tree in any way,” my mother said. But I did not think she was actually talking to me, because her mouth was facing Mr. Clayton and she was looking at him.

“We have an agreement,” she said to Mr. Clayton. “He spends not more than twenty-five minutes in a tree before he comes down. Isn’t that right, Peter?”

I looked down at my mother’s hand. My mother was not exact, but I did not correct her statement. She was still holding on to me. It was hard to not breathe. If I kept not breathing, eventually I would pass out. I had done that before. I did not want to pass out here. I wanted to climb the tree.

“Yes?” she said.

“Yes,” I said. And she let go of me. Then I breathed again.

So I made that promise to follow the rule to my mother and to Mr. Clayton. But then when I got up to fifty feet high in the Red Cedar, I saw the Eagle Tree across the valley, and I forgot the rule.

And that was when I stayed in the tree for 121 minutes. I wish now that I had not done that. It meant we might have to move to Arizona. But before we moved to Arizona, first I would climb the Eagle Tree.


Uncle Mike offered to take me to see the tree. But my mother told me I must get a jacket.

While I was searching through my new closet for my jacket, Uncle Mike talked to my mother, and he also went next door to talk to Mr. Clayton. I found out about this conversation when I came downstairs and we got in Uncle Mike’s truck. Uncle Mike told me that he had talked to Mr. Clayton about my sighting of the very large tree. Mr. Clayton had explained to him that many people call it the Eagle Tree, because a pair of bald eagles nested in the broken top crag of that tree for many years.

Now I knew that the informal name of the tree was the Eagle Tree. I said the name to myself several times after Uncle Mike told me. I knew the informal name now, but I did not know what species or variety the tree would turn out to be.

Uncle Mike drives a large truck the color of White Elm bark, which means it is a light-gray color. I know Elm bark, even though most of the American Elms, Ulmus americana, have been killed by disease now.

The gray truck has four windows, one of which will not roll up the final one-eighth of an inch to make a seal with the window frame. That means that the right rear passenger window makes a thin, high whistling sound when the truck is moving. Often I have to cover my ears, because the sound is a saw going through my head. However, if Uncle Mike remembers that the window will make the sound, then he opens another window, which makes the sound go away from that right rear window. Sometimes when I cover my ears, he changes the other window so it works. Sometimes he does not see me cover my ears, and he does not change the window, and then I can hear the sound in my head through the whole ride.

He has asked me to talk to him about the sound, so that he remembers to change the window. But I did not talk to him about the sound on the drive to the Eagle Tree. By the time the sound started, it was too late to talk to him; I had to cover my ears. And I cannot talk to him when my ears are covered. It is one of the rules. I cannot talk to people when my ears are covered, because it is rude. And I could not remove my hands from my ears to talk to Uncle Mike, because then the sound would get deeper inside me. However, despite the sound in his truck, I appreciated that Uncle Mike was taking me to see the tree.

The forest had a sign that said “LBA Woods.” Once we passed the sign, the trees leaned over the road, and soon the light was dim, as the trees grew very densely together. When we arrived, I was so excited that my hands would not stop moving. Uncle Mike had to open the truck door for me.

The line of the horizon was covered in green, and light filtered through the trees, rays of sunlight splitting around the vast trunks, the branches above us fluttering in a faint wind. The green needles were silver underneath. It was almost too much for me to take in. I flinched as a leaf from an Alder was caught by the wind and fluttered down through the forest. A distant bird shrieked.

“These woods are presettlement,” Uncle Mike said. He pointed at a large fallen tree that was lying across the terrain ahead; it was as big as a hill in itself, and small trees sprouted from the top of the great mound. It was a nurse log, but larger than any I had seen in the woods behind our house or in the woods in Watershed Park, where I usually climb.

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