from the series ‘Wholly Unintended Consequences of Biblical Lore’
written by Tom Zeibig
John sat down against the wheel of his tractor, sweat pouring down his face. His wife Kathy, with Mary and Adam, walked across the dusty field to bring him a drink and some lunch.
“One more tree to go.” John took a sip. He had been working all week, taking down trees, and pulling up stumps to make a clearing for Kathy’s garden. There was just one last tree to be removed. “I’ve saved the biggest tree for last, this one might be too big for my chain saw” he confided. “but it should make an excellent dinette set if I can get it to the mill.”
“John, Mary wants you to read something to her, can you take a minute?” Kathy asked. Young Mary stood there holding the family Bible open, pointing to a picture. “Daddy, look it’s an olive tree! Is that where olive wood comes from?” Little Adam repeated “tractor!”
“Oh, yup, that’s an olive tree all right.” Mary and Adam sat down in his lap. John glanced at the page, and began “yea, if you but have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this tree, uproot thyself, and it would be so, or unto this mountain, move thyself, and it would be so”.
John smiled and turned around to look at the big tree, “Alright tree, uproot thyself and carry thyself over into yonder forest, better yet, split thyself into boards, and rack thyself out to dry too, 2 by 12 planks would be fine. planed too while you’re at it.” To which Mary repeated “Tree Uproot thyself!” and Adam repeated “Tractor!” (which meant ‘tree uproot thyself’) as they wandered back to the house.
John went back to eating his lunch, and sat thinking about the future garden, and all the things they would grow, and the fine boards this tree would make. But, as he ate, a small branch of the tree kept tapping him on the shoulder. He brushed it aside several times, but then he heard a voice. “Excuse me, but I was wondering…”.
He turned around slowly and saw the huge tree waving branches towards him. It was no longer rooted in the ground. It was standing on its root tips and weaving back and forth. It looked like it would fall over.
Again, the tree tried to reach out to John. It tapped him on the shoulder and took a few steps forward! “Excuse me, but…”
John leapt up, and then fell backwards trying to get away from the huge branches. The tree schruffled toward him a little bit more, but John wasn’t waiting around. He quickly hopped in the tractor cab and turned the key. “WHoly Unintended Consequences of Biblical Lore!” he exclaimed ere he drove out of sight. “I’ve never seen anything like this before!” The tree had completely uprooted itself and could have fallen in any direction. “Kathy’s, not gonna believe this one!”
When John had disappeared inside the tractor cab, the tree became confused, and stopped. “I just want to thank him for helping me, and to ask where I should go now” it stammered, but it was no use, he could not find John or Kathy or the children anywhere, and the tractor thing was headed down the field making a cloud of dust. The tree chased it a little ways, but it was too quick.
“Hmm, what do I do now” the tree thought, “Mary and Adam didn’t tell me what to do after I uprooted myself, and surely John was joking about the lumber.” Slowly, the tree returned to its spot in the dirt, put its roots back in the ground, and sat down to think for a while.
When John returned in the tractor with Kathy, the tree was fast asleep, right where it had always been. “Um, John, why don’t we go back inside for a while” Kathy said calmly, “maybe you should lie down for a bit, dear. I’ll drive. perhaps a cool beverage.” John shook his head, and said a great deal, but nothing I could put in a children’s story. They both got back in the tractor and headed home.
Later that evening, the tree finally decided what it should do. “I’ll go talk to the other trees in the forest, maybe they can help.” The tree pulled up it’s roots again, and schruffled off toward the woods.
The tree thought to herself, “schruffling, that’s how we move about now, you can’t exactly call it walking”.
The next morning, when John returned to pick up all the tools he had left behind, there was only a great hole where the tree had once been. The tree was gone, it had left for good, leaving nothing but a trail of schruffle prints leading into the woods.
“It’s GONE!” he cried out. “I’m not saying a word, nothing, not ever, I’ll just pick up my tools and pretend I took that tree down in my sleep. Why, it’s probably at the mill right now.” he quietly said, as he picked up the tools and drove back home. “This is not good.” he thought. “Kathy’s gonna have a fit if I tell her.”
The tree wandered thru the forest for several months, but none of the other trees could talk to her, ’cause they were just wood. She was very lonely. Sometimes she would come across a farmer or hiker in the woods, but whenever she would try to catch up to them, they would just run away screaming. And, as you know, trees aren’t very fast when they schruffle. (She hadn’t learned about tree summersaults yet.)
One day she was climbing up a small mountain, “Hmm, this mountain wasn’t here the last time I went thru this valley. I wonder how it got here” she thought. She suddenly felt tired and had to sit down. There was a nice large rock that was just right, and she sat down right on top of it.
“I don’t know where to go. The family didn’t say what I should do next, they just disappeared and I never saw them again” she sobbed. (I did get my ebt card in the mail, but out here in the sticks, it’s not much use I’ve found.)
Suddenly she heard a loud rumbling voice. “If you’re done weeping, little tree, could you please get off of my eye rockette, I can’t see where I’m going. No hurry though.”
It was the tree’s turn to be surprised. She looked around, but saw no one. She checked all the trees nearby, but they were just wood.
“Who said that! and I’m not a little tree you know.” she called. The mountain rumbled, “It’s me, you’re sitting on my eye rockette”. The tree was so surprised, she stood up quickly. “And what’s a rockette anyways?”
“Ah, thank you, that’s better” he rumbled and laughed, “and could you hold still, you’re roots are tickling. Why, a rockette is just a small rock, like the one you’re sitting on.”
“You’re a talking mountain!”
“Yes I know, I can dance too, but slowly.”
“Wow!” the tree exclaimed.
The rumble continued, “Yeah, a family showed up one day, and told me to move. They had a truck, and they talked about mustard for long time, nearly put me to sleep, and then they told me to go. I don’t even like mustard. Anyway, they didn’t say where I should go, or if I could ever stop, so I’ve just been wandering about for a while. It’s what I do now.”
“Hmm, that sounds like my problem” the tree responded, “They didn’t even stick around to talk at all, just left in a cloud of dust”.
“Typical” the mountain concurred.
“Have you thought of taking up crochet? I would think with all those limbs you could be quite good at it.”
“No” responded the tree, “I don’t like needles.”
“Ya know, I’ve seen lots of trees like you recently, most of them are very friendly. There’s a nice gathering not too far from here, I can show you if you like.” This got the tree very excited, “Oh, Yes! Please.”
So they schruffled together for a while.
The tree thought to herself, “hmm, mountains don’t really schruffle well, but what else would you call it?”
“Do you have a name, besides just ‘tree’?”
“Well, I never have before, I guess I could use one now. I’ve been referred to as lumber, but I don’t …”
“Ok, I’ll call you Twiglet” he rumbled, “I’m Rocky”.
“Oh dear, well, I’m much bigger than a twig you know, I’m a mighty oak I think, or an olive tree, not sure, anyways…” she started.
“You don’t seem very big to me” Rocky Rumbled, “Now look dear, Twiglet, the clearing with the dancing trees is just ahead.” Rocky seemed to be enjoying his new friend.
“Let’s stop here, at the edge of the clearing. I don’t want to disturb their dance field.” he continued.
“Their dance field?” Twiglet cried out.
“Yes, but you’ll have to wait until night fall, the trees won’t budge until then”.
So, together they waited at the edge of the clearing until dark.
“You DO know that I’m much MUCH bigger than a twig, right” Twiglet tried,
but Rocky had fallen asleep.
That night, the moon was shining brightly. Twiglet watched the other trees closely to see if any of them would move. She soon saw one tree pulling its roots out, and another. Soon they were all up-rooted. They stood on root tips and stretched way, way up high. It was wonderful to see them schruffling around, branches waving about and all of them talking at once.
Twiglet was about to speak, but Rocky cautioned her that it would only be polite to wait until the dance was over, so she remained quiet and watched. “All the trees are out in the clearing now, which I guess means it’s not really a clearing anymore if it’s full of trees, but I digress.” The great dance began.
First, each tree schruffled into the center, boughed, and returned to the circle. This took a long time as some of the trees had forgotten their roots and became all tangled. But soon the great circle dance began, again.
All the trees joined limbs and moved in a circle. Some were quite graceful. Others just enjoyed thumping the ground as hard as they could, which did made a nice beat, if not a steady one. There were also some young saplings that had to be carried, because SOME trees weren’t too careful about where they thumped their big roots down.
“Ah, my favorite part” said Rocky, “they’re about to remember the great storm of ’78.” The trees began to shake their leaves and branches about wildly. Bending and swaying together, almost to the ground at times. It created quite a wind. They loved making wind.
However, just before morning, the dance changed again. All the trees began schruffling in different directions. It was very exciting. They would grab each other’s limbs and roots, and swing each there about, bark, twigs and leaves flying in all directions. Twiglet thought perhaps they were trying to square dance, but that’s hard to do if you’re all limbs and roots. It was a wild and crazy dance.
Twiglet thought “this looks dangerous, are they going to be ok?”
“This is the ending” indicated Rocky. “It always ends the same way, in a huge pile of trees.” he chuckled. And sure enough, the trees were landing one on top of the other, in a big tangled mess. But they were laughing so hard that they couldn’t untangle themselves. And they were having such a great time that they hadn’t even noticed Twiglet and Rocky watching nearby.
Twiglet started laughing too, she couldn’t help herself, and she had a wonderfully loud laugh. “Bravo, wonderful dance!” she called out, and clapped her limbs together as fast as she could.
But, at the sound of her voice, all the trees stopped. They quickly untangled themselves and schruffled back into place as fast as they could. One sapling couldn’t find a place to put its roots and ran about the clearing until another tree helped it find a spot. They all placed their roots back in the ground, and became perfectly silent, pretending to be wood.
Twiglet didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know why they stopped? Slowly, she schruffled to the center of the field, and sat down. “That was a wonderful dance, won’t you come and talk to me?” she cried out.
It was then, that one of the Elder trees spoke. “Oh, dear, it’s another up-rooted tree, just like us. My you’re a big one. Tell us, was it the John, the Kathy, the Mary or the Adam that had you uproot yourself dear?” “Why, yes it was all of them” she explained. “Rocky told me there were other trees like me, but I wasn’t sure, until now.”
“Ah, thank you Rocky for bringing her here. You’re welcome to join us. Everyone, come on out and welcome our newest dancer!”
“I’m Twiglet, I guess” Twiglet added quietly and then added “but I AM bigger than a twig you know”.
“Rocky did you a favor by naming you Twiglet dear, such a big tree as yourself is sure to attract a bunch of lumbermen, but I think most of them would be too embarrassed to bring a tree named ‘Twiglet’ to the mill” the Elder went on “it’s your camouflage of sorts”.
All the trees raised their branches (and roots) in welcome. “All Hail Twiglet!”
“Now dear, your welcome to stay as long as you like, but there is one rule. You must never schruffle during the daytime, folks around here get scared. And, for goodness sake, don’t chase the farmers or hikers around, that never works out. Dogs, well ok, they deserve it, but never in daylight.”
Just then, a lumber truck appeared coming down the nearby highway, fresh from the mill. All the trees became quiet. It slowed down and came to a stop right near them! Suddenly, Twiglet realized that she was the biggest tree around, and she was worried about becoming lumber. But, the truck soon drove off again, leaving the trees in peace.
“Hurray, it works! Your camouflage is working!” the others exclaimed. Most of the trees had just boughed and tried to look small and sad while it passed, but the poor weeping willow just couldn’t stop sobbing until the truck was far down the road.
The Elder began again, “As I was saying dear, we dance at night, and in the day we hold still.”
Twiglet thought this was a splendid plan.
Even Rocky thought it was a good plan, although some mornings he would find himself on the wrong side of the clearing, but no one seemed to mind. His favorite part was that each year in the spring time, he would take all the trees for a ride around the valley, and he didn’t really mind that their roots tickled him so much.
So the next time you’re out in a field at night, and the moon is just right, don’t be surprised if you see the trees pulling out their roots, and begin dancing the great circle dance.
However, during the day, they’ll just stand in one spot and wave about, pretending to be wood, but we know better now. You can often tell that you’re among schrufflers, if you find yourself standing in a forest where a field should be, that’s your clue.
Oh, and Kathy, John, Mary and Adam? Well once the Garden was completed, they started a ‘Field Clearing’ business. They go about the county clearing fields for other farmers. Sometimes a group of schrufflers will gather in some poor farmers field overnight, but John and his family know just how to clear them out pretty quickly. The other farmers have tried to do the same thing, but so far it hasn’t worked.
And finally, the pulp of the story is; If you tell a tree to uproot itself, or a mountain to move itself, and you have faith the size of a mustard seed (or larger), please also tell the tree or mountain where exactly to go, and when to stop, so they don’t wander forever.
Remember, only YOU can prevent needless schruffling.