There is something about a tree that makes me think of
him – sitting wedged between two limbs, pulling the saw back and
forth, his denim jacket catching heedlessly on tiny stray branches,
a short billed cap bobbing and sliding back and forth, matching the
movement of the saw. And
my grandmother watching from the kitchen window, twisting her
dishtowel in her hands, a forehead lined above concerned eyes.
“Please be careful, Reuben,” she whispers to the empty
At 70 years old my grandfather still climbed trees.
His mind was a jumbled swirl of the past with various
swatches of boyhood moving in and out of his vision. But he still
remembered where the blue denim jacket hung.
And in putting it on became the farmer of his youth,
searching out his saw to trim a sickened tree, or build another rick
of wood to add to the some 50 plus already surrounding the house.
My grandmother stayed inside close by the window –
watching the square of blue denim move soundlessly.
Even though she could only see the back of his grey capped
head, she knew he was smiling.
She wanted to put on her coat and go out to the stand beneath
the tree. Just maybe to call to him to come down to safety.
But the image of that smile stopped her, leaving her with
nothing but new lines in her face and a twisted piece of cloth in
She saw the limb fall and watched as he slowly climbed
down. Only when he
reached the earth did she lay the towel on the counter and move
put the plates on the table and sliced the too-done meat, a product
of her worry at the window.
He came in saying nothing, hanging his coat and cap on
the hook by the door. As
she set the silver beside the plates, he pulled a piece of wood from
the box and added it to the stove, then turned and gently smiled.
“We'll have enough wood from that
limb to last a while,” he said.
“ You take such good care of us, Reuben,” she said,
and sat down at the table and took his hand to say grace as they had
done all of their married life.
This story of
her grandparents Rueben and True Ulmer was written by Kristi
Leatherman Hall, now living in South Dakota.
She wrote for the book “The Sweet Spring Still Flows”
edited and compiled by Bob Williamson for the Pennsylvania Colony.
The book has been sold out for some time and the funds
collected were donated to the Colony for the creation of a muesum
now located just north of Dawson, Nebraska.
True and Rueben Ulmer lived in their later years half mile
south of the Humboldt Corner on Hwy 75.
Many of us can remember the huge ricks of fire wood piled
just south of the old gas station. Most of the heat for cooking and keeping warm in winter was
from cutting hedge or other trees and sawed into proper lengths for
cook stoves and furnaces.