Posts Tagged With: Halloween

The Black Hills Chainsaw Slasher

He’s out there somewhere. And he has a chainsaw.

Which, at the moment, is quite effective camouflage.

In the past three weeks, the Black Hills have been alive with the sound of chainsaws as people clean up after Winter Storm Atlas. Trailers and pickups bristling with broken trees have been lined up at drop-off sites to add their loads to enormous piles of debris. Chipping machines are busy ingesting branches from those piles and egesting them as wood chips onto new piles just as enormous.

We haven’t been working as hard as many of our neighbors, but we’ve been cleaning up our own very minor mess. The pile of broken branches at the top of our driveway, ready for curbside pickup, is growing steadily. It’s still a puny little thing, though, compared to the huge windrows of branches along the curbs on many streets.

Several branches broke off of the big old pine tree that looms over our mailbox. (That’s the one where the imaginary mountain lion waits on dark winter mornings when we go up to get the newspaper.) After we cleared away those limbs, we looked at the tree and decided it could use some further trimming. One large branch in particular must have been broken years ago. Even though it had healed, it drooped toward the driveway at an odd angle, and part of it was dead. We agreed it should go—sometime, when we had the time and energy to figure out how to safely get a ladder squeezed in between the tree and the mailbox.

The next day, coming home from an appointment, I stopped to pick up the mail. The street near the driveway was littered with more broken sticks than I remembered leaving there. The top of the mailbox was covered with fresh sawdust. When I poked my head out of the car window to look up at the tree, I saw the fresh slash where the damaged branch had been. The branch itself, in several pieces, had been added to our debris pile.

I was not amused. I didn’t appreciate the idea of my partner out there by himself, balanced precariously on a ladder to cut down a limb as big around as my waist used to be. True, I wouldn’t have been much help. But at least, if he fell or cut one of his own limbs instead of the tree’s, I could have been there to call 911 before I passed out at the sight of the blood. What had he been thinking?

As it turned out, nothing. He didn’t do it. Some mysterious somebody with a chainsaw had performed hit-and-run tree surgery.

Who was it?

The mail carrier, out of fear of the branch falling on the mailbox? Unlikely. I’m sure there are federal regulations that forbid carrying chainsaws in postal vehicles. Besides, that branch had been hanging over the mailbox for years.

Someone from the city? I doubt it. The crew hasn’t been by to pick up our slash pile yet, and I’m sure they don’t have time to roam the streets in search of odd-looking branches to trim just for the fun of it.

A neighbor? More likely, but odd. Several of them were out working in their own yards at the same time we were. It was a neighborly gesture—I guess. But why would one of them come trim our tree without talking to us first?

The only other option I can think of is a random slasher with a chainsaw and too much time on his hands. Maybe it was a frustrated horticulturalist who can’t stand the sight of odd-looking trees. I can almost see him, perched above our mailbox, chortling with glee as the branch crashes to the ground. It’s not a comforting thought.

Because whoever he is, he’s still out there. He has a chainsaw. And next week is Halloween.

Categories: Odds and Ends | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

“Orange You Glad You Saw the Game?”

In South Dakota, seeing hordes of people wearing orange only means one thing—opening weekend of pheasant season. In a certain part of southeastern New Mexico, seeing hordes of people wearing orange only means one thing—opening weekend of football season.

For whatever reason, possibly including its proximity to Texas, where high school football is less a sport than a religion, this is a town that takes its football seriously. How seriously? Well, the windows of all the downtown businesses display pictures of the players, the cheerleaders, and the orange bulldog mascot. And if Halloween happens to fall on the Friday night of a home game, they postpone it (Halloween, not the game) to the next night.

It pretty much goes without saying that on game day, practically everyone in town wears something orange. Even though we were going to the game, I didn't exactly have a dog in the fight. Nevertheless, trying to be polite and blend in, I dug through my suitcase for the closest thing to orange I had, a coral-colored tee shirt.

As soon as we walked through the gate, I realized this was not high school football as I have ever known it. To me, a high school football field is just that—a field, with reasonably groomed grass, goal posts that may or may not have a fresh coat of paint, a few sets of bleachers, a concession shack, and maybe a couple of bathrooms.

This was a stadium—with tiers of seats on both sides, a high concrete walkway circling the field, at least two concession stands, end zones made up of orange and white squares of artificial turf, a giant inflatable orange bulldog mascot at one end of the field, and skyboxes, for Pete's sake. Plus fireworks at the beginning and end of the game. (Most of it privately funded, I should note, for anyone concerned about the wise use of tax dollars.)

And orange everywhere. Blaze orange. Tangerine. Yellow-orange. Ochre. Faded rust. Not just shirts and caps, either, though both were plentiful. Shoelaces. Lapel buttons. Seat cushions. Bags. Hair ornaments.

No orange hair, though, which I found surprising and a little disappointing. There were some kids with orange goop smeared on their faces and hair, but they looked less like football fans than members of a struggling wannabe grunge band called Zombies of the Pumpkin Patch. This may explain why that particular look was limited to a handful of junior high boys.

The moon came up, nearly full, at the beginning of the second half. It was—I am not making this up—orange.

Amid all this color, my well-intentioned coral shirt looked very, very pink.

On the other side of the stadium, supporters of the visiting team, from a town some 60 miles away, were out in force—and in blue. I kept my feet under the seat in front of me so no one would notice my potentially disloyal blue socks.

Oh, and the football game? The visitors made seven touchdowns, were ahead by 14 points at the end of the first half, and scored a total of 49 points. The bulldogs made nine touchdowns and ended up with 63 points. It was the best high school football game I've ever seen. Also the longest; the second quarter lasted an hour.

By the end of the game, I had a better understanding of why football here is such a big deal. It was almost enough to make me think about buying something orange. Not a tee shirt, though. A seat cushion.

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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