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The tree, the bike and the Chook

The tree, the bike and the chook.


I write this retrospectively, but hope it will be just as amusing.

“Do you know what a bonfire is?” C asks me not long after I arrive back from my jaunt on the east coast. I often get these questions and have long since ceased to get offended by such ridiculous queries. “Yes, I know what a bonfire is”, I respond.  “Cool, we’re having one on Thursday. We’re gonna burn down a tree and toast marshmallows. Dad’s gonna chuck petrol on it”. Right, I see. I choose not to buy into this too much.

Sure enough, Thursday rolls around and it’s bonfire night. I am still unaware as to what tree is being burnt and also aware that no one had been preparing a bonfire the way I would have done and of course I am alarmed to find the two boys, no shoes, in the dark with boxes of matches trying to set fire to a tree with the light from the quad bike.

I am wonder whether to intervene when I am asked to go and supervise the activity and having heard rumours of throwing petrol on it, I rush over there. I teach them how to build the house that jack built and we stuff the hole they’d previously cut into the dead tree trunk with newspaper and dry twigs. After setting it alight a very annoyed toad crawls out. I feel terrible about this, wondering what else we are burning inside that old tree trunk. The boys play golf with the toad! “It’s ok, we hate toads” was their excuse for putting it across the yard!

I should point out the size of this tree before going further. This is no sprig; it’s a huge tree of about 20 metres in height.

I get the fire going inside, and, aware that the tree is damp thanks to heavy rain; I get it going outside too. Gathering up plenty of dry wood, we get some healthy flames going at the base of the trunk, and then go away to have dinner.

And hour or so later, I look outside and to my disappointment, it seems to have gone out. I relay this insight, and rather than anyone doing anything about it, they just shrug and that’s that. The children, having been looking forward to a bonfire all week are sorely disappointed and feel my efforts are rather shafted, but what can I do? On my way to my room later, I notice that it hadn’t gone out; there were still embers glowing inside the trunk. I relay this message before wending my way, not wanting to be responsible for any unwanted burning…

The dogs bark incessantly throughout the night and when I wake up, I see why.

The tree continued burning. It burned all night. It split in half. It fell to the ground. It blew up the quad bike left nearby. Oopps. I hear some shouting in the morning and ignore it until it’s my time to make an appearance. The tree has burnt a tree shaped scorch mark on the grass and there are still flames dancing around the yet-to-burn branches on the ground and inside the trunk. The metal frame of the bike sits there, parked but useless at the foot of the now very dead tree.