Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 07.12.04
Stanstead, Quebec


So one little tree let me down…

STANSTEAD, QC | I think that I shall never see

My father climb another tree. -- The Murray Children

Fat chance! I'm not going to let one tree get me down or, to be precise, keep me from going up. I've never met a tree I couldn't climb and I'm not going to let one small mishap curtail my clambering ways.

I've always loved trees. I even took on a tree-planting job one summer, one of several jobs in my life that lasted a single day before being abandoned for something cushier and not involving black flies whizzing up my nose.

Growing up, my backyard had a tremendous willow. It was a fantastic climbing tree with wide branches for stretching out with a good book or a good self-pitying pout. You could climb and climb and there would always be a sturdy branch to hang onto. There's a metaphor for life in there somewhere, I'm sure, but let's move on…

One summer, my brother Andrew and I built a tree house in the willow. It spanned several branches and had windows with sliding shutters, secret compartments, and, the piece de résistance, purple shag carpeting. It was like Hugh Hefner's Hardwood Hideaway.

I say Andrew and I built it but it was actually he and Bernie MacMillan who did most of the work and I just little-brothered my way into the action. Similarly, I pretty much stayed on the periphery in terms of any Playboy action that went on inside, my role relegated to that of peeping-tom.

Eventually, the tree house was noticed by earwigs who, obviously turned on by the purple shag carpeting, transformed the tree house into the love nest it was meant to be.

But the tree house only heightened my fondness for climbing (not to mention spying). Years later, I'm still able to climb a tree. I may be a little stiffer but at least I'm not as angst-ridden.

Last week, I was playing hide-and-seek in the park with the kids. I was hiding, daughter Kate was seeking. As she counted, I scurried up a chestnut tree, settling in just 12 feet above the ground with a clear view of the action below. I remained still as Kate walked directly beneath me. When her back was to me, I reached down to the branch at my feet and gracefully swung out of the tree and dropped cat-like to the ground below. I ran to home where I was congratulated for my finesse and daring-do.

Two turns later, I tried again in another tree, this time as James was seeking. My position wasn't as stable but I held on. Again, James passed beneath me. Time to make my entrance. As I shifted my weight, the branch in my right hand snapped. Suddenly, the world was whir of cracking branches, leaves, and, I swear, purple shag. My downward fall was broken, when my back slammed into a large branch just before I crumpled onto the ground.

So much for finesse.

Like my leap from the first tree, this too had been observed by my fellow players, only this time it was met with howls of laughter. (Yes, they did ask if I was okay.)

Nothing was broken but my shoulders and back were nicely scraped and I was pretty achey for the rest of the day.

"You could have hurt yourself," said Deb, which was code for "Aren't you a little old to be climbing trees?"

Never! I'm not going to be intimidated by a single tree. If anyone sees my battle scars, I'll say, "But you should see the other guy; I tore him limb from limb!"