Kickass and white pine trees

Kickass, the doorstop dog, has given up trying to figure out the keeper’s life-long affair with white pine trees.  A dog’s attraction to a tree is practical and understandable: a human’s is quite another thing.  It bordered on a religious experience yesterday when the keeper discovered a big old, gnarly white pine on a rare strip of wild and unattended woods next to his new Madison digs.  The keeper’s enthusiasm in reporting his tree find to Phyllis may have been lacking since it did not include his wide-eyed childhood reaction to a Grandpa Helgeland story of a panther resting high in the branches of a white pine with “its tail hanging down like a big fishhook.”  There were remnants of massive white pine stumps from the original 18th century logging in the pasture where the keeper spent many wonderful boyhood hours. There were the big white pine trees of his Westfield “Back-40,” some of which he harvested to panel his beloved former Mazomanie home so he could “be with his trees.” If he were of a burial mind, the keeper might want to involve a white pine box in his grand exit, but since he plans to stay on stage indefinitely, the discovered nearby white pine takes on an alter-like identity; and it is where the keeper might be found from time to time as the “play” goes on—standing in the weeds and brush next to the old white pine, comparing its gnarls to the twists of his life, and in a perverse sort of way, doing a dog-like thing by using a tree to “mark territory.”

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