Title: Leaving Galway
By: James Linnane
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: August 8, 2016
Genre: Non-Fiction, Short Stories
My First Tree
I remember distinctly the day I cut down my first tree. I was eight years old.
I used to pal around with the only other boy in our small village around my age named Patrick. Patrick was four years older than me. He was stronger, bigger and smarter than me, so I always played second fiddle, with regard to who was boss. He once told me he was going to be a doctor and years later I can tell you that’s just what he did. Our village was, at that time, in a remote part of County Galway. We were both farmer’s sons, fond of the fields, the seashore and the open air. At the weekend and on holidays when there was no school we would spend time together when we had no homework or farm work to do and we always invented some sort of adventure for ourselves.
On that day we decided to build ourselves a hut in a remote, inaccessible corner of one of my father’s fields. The spot was picked. We trampled down the vegetation around it and so it began. Somewhere along the way, and for some reason best known to ourselves at that time, now well and truly forgotten, we decided nothing would do us but to cut down some unfortunate Ash tree for the main structure. We intended to build a framework, which we would cover with plastic bags, to keep out the rain, with leaves and branches to camouflage it from prying eyes. It would be our secret hiding place.
I was duly dispatched to get tools in my father’s shed. My father’s precious tools, a risky venture at best, but he was well occupied, as he usually was, and I crept in and then out laden with an old saw, two formidable hatchets and some plastic bags, unseen. I sped down the fields as fast as my burdens would permit me, which probably was not too fast. Patrick had been waiting at a safe distance and met me along the way to assist with my load. When we arrived back we surveyed the doomed tree.
We began to work. Our abundance of enthusiasm was only matched by our total ineptitude and lack of skill. I began sawing like a man possessed. The saw bounced and slipped, bucked and buckled. I nearly fell over a couple of times, sweat poured from my brow and then Patrick took his turn. Truly he fared no better than I. Finally, the saw stuck fast and neither of us could move it. A titan struggle ensued and finally the saw was free. It was decided to finish the job with the hatchets. We were about as good with the hatchets as we were with the saw, or maybe worse, and it amazes me that we did not kill or maim each other.
We both walloped the poor tree till we were fit to drop. The tree stooped unimpressed and unmoving while we lay on the ground panting and sweating, red faced and beaten. The tree seemed to bear only minor scars despite our exertions and for a while, it looked as if we might well be beaten.
But perseverance and downright stubbornness are a funny thing and we were country lads with boundless energy, raised on farm work, hurling, plenty of fresh air and home cooking. Our swearing vocabulary, at that time was quite limited, but we used them all just the same as we renewed our efforts yet again. Still being raised on the rosary and mass on Sunday we chose not to overdo it lest a bolt of lightning strike us down.
We grunted, chopped, sweated and thumped as the day wore on. The day became sunny it compounded our hardships. Hands began to blister and bleed our shirts were off, wood chips lay scattered all around, but the tree still stood. We rested and worked alternately and spasmodically. Our tired limbs ached and throbbed as we whacked the pock mark trunk, inflicting more grievous, gaping wounds on the already wounded tree. On towards evening the tree let out an almost inaudible groan and a slight shudder. We attacked it with renewed zeal and it was I who struck the mortal blow, allowing us to pull it down, narrowly avoiding being pinned underneath it, however, we survived.
Having succeeded in our efforts, we trimmed its branches and tried to fit it to our hut, only to be convinced that it wouldn’t do. We duly discarded our hard won prize. It lay there, accusing, its naked stump, blatant in its starkness, a dying thing and we the villians of the plot.
It was getting late as we donned our shirts, collected the tools and gazed again at the say dejected tree lying prone and smitten. We hid the plastic bags before we headed home.
I felt slightly nervous as I bade my friend goodnight wondering what my father might do if he should notice the unnecessary havoc we had wrought and left. I quietly replaced the tools in the shed. As I walked towards our house I felt elation tinged with sadness. We had, had a grand adventure, I had cut down my first tree. I don’t know if we ever finished that hut, I don’t think we did. Youth is always fickle and restless, so certain yet so foolish and I was all of these things even at that age, a country lad just starting to grow with a head full of nonsense, coupled with a childish wisdom and a question for every answer.
James Linnane was born in County Galway Ireland in 1962. The youngest of a family of 10 children. The son of a building foreman/farmer and mother who essentially ran the farm while raising the family. James has lived in various parts of Ireland, has had various jobs and a career spanning barwork, security, construction and engineering.
His first book Never take an Irishman seriously unless he’s armed was published in New York in 1988, his second book, a novel(The Life and Times of a Gotcha) was released in 2011 and his third, The Potless Generation (a book of poetry) was released in 2014.
James has been a member of various writing groups including The Boyne Writers, The Meath Writers, and Splinter4all among whom James has many good friends. He has been widely published in various publications besides his own books. James is also involved with doing voluntary work and with festival groups like Scurloughstown Olympiad.
James now lives in Ballivor County Meath with his wife and 2 daughters.
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