As a side note and for your education in the intricacies of forestry parlance, anyone associated with the timber business refers to a parcel of wooded land as a “tract,” as in “that’s a nice tract of wood.” It is pronounced “track,” and I suspect a good many of them would spell it that way.
But I digress. Reckon I got off tract.
I had just moved a logger onto the tract when the owner drove up. He was an old man dressed in old man work clothes: khaki pants, matching khaki shirt, red and black plaid hunting jacket, and a cap with ear flaps. Looked like he might have just stepped off the cover of a 1957 edition of Outdoor Life. His car was also from the ’50’s, a Rambler I believe, and it was as neat as the creases on those khaki pants. I initially thought “bless his heart, this poor fellow has come today because this land is dear to him. He probably inherited it from his father, who managed to scrape up enough share-cropper dollars to buy it just before the Great Depression. Now he wants to take a last look at the trees he and his poor old daddy planted together right after he got home from the Big War across pond.”
I would later discover that he owned a couple of thousand acres of land and had more money than Carter had little pills (Google it, youngsters). I have more imagination than sense sometimes.
He motioned me over to the passenger window. “Hop in, young fellow, I want to show you some things before you get started.”
Now at this point in the story I should mention that there was a chihuahua in the back seat of the Rambler, who looked to be about as old as the man (in dog years, of course). I should also mention that he was in a rage, barking and snarling and flinging himself against the rear passenger window.
I am not a person who has any fear of dogs. But I do have a healthy respect for a snarling one with a murderous look in his bugged-out eyes, even if he does weigh 15 pounds and barks with a Mexican accent.
I hesitated. “Is your dog going to bite me?”
“No, son, get in. Jasper, hush that up now, you hear.”
Jasper was apparently bilingual, as he did calm down slightly. But as soon as I got in he jumped to the top of the front seat, where he hunkered-down facing me.
We rode around in that Rambler for twenty minutes as the old man pointed to this and that. We bounced down roads and pig-trails that I wouldn’t have attempted in a four-wheel drive pickup.
I said “Yes sir” a lot, but my eyes were straight ahead and I was trying not to flinch. That chihuahua’s nose was one-inch from my cheek, and he was growling the entire time — one of those breathing, inhale/exhale growls. I knew if I made one move my left ear was gone. I was focused.
We eventually made it back, my face still intact.
The next day I called the logger to see how things were going. “This is some good wood” (more forestry parlance), “but I’m afraid we’re going to accidentally kill that old man. He stays out here all the time watching us work. We’ve had several close calls. He just appears out of thin air beside the machines. I almost cut a tree down on him this morning.”
I promised I would come by the next morning and talk to him about the dangers of logging equipment. Make sure he understood.
Let me digress again and tell you a little about this logger. Tony had found Jesus at a Pentecostal tent revival a couple of months before, and he was as excited and sincere about his new-found faith as any man I had ever met. Within a week, his entire crew had joined the flock as a result of his preaching. Tony had invited me to his church, the “West Georgia Assembly of Signs Following,” where the Spirit was working. People were speaking in unknown tongues, being healed of various afflictions, and sometimes were “Slain in the Spirit.” No timber rattlers were being passed around, so I guess all the signs following were not yet on display.*
Once Tony asked me if I had ever been Slain in the Spirit.
I said I didn’t think I had.
“Well, you ought to come to one of our Saturday night services. It happened to me a couple of weeks ago. It was like being hit by a bolt of lightning. Knocked me slam out of my shoes.”
I smiled and nodded. Didn’t say anything. Never had any desire to be struck by lightning. Try to avoid it most days.
Back to the story. The next day I came out to talk to the old man, but he was nowhere to be found.
I stopped Tony and asked if he had been out to the job that morning.
“Oh yes, he left about an hour ago. I asked him if he knew Jesus, and he said ‘No, I don’t want any part of religion,’ so I radioed all my men and got them to come in. We formed a circle around him and prayed for his eyes to be opened by the Spirit, but he just jumped in his car and left.”
Funny thing, we never saw that old man again.
Probably just afraid of lightning.
* The Bible, Mark 16:17-18.
This piece first posted in 2016.