the last day of a tree
In its day, the tree’s canopy had extended 50 feet, a colossus under which Romaine Tenney and his sisters and brothers grew to adulthood.
Sprouting before the turn of the last century, it shot up, growing as much as a foot a year, for four decades before poking its crown above the tree cover and into the sunlight. At its full height, said Ted Knox, an arborist, it measured 85 feet and weighed 10 tons.
Then the parking lot was built, and, exposed to beating sun and hot asphalt, the tree began to weaken. The state’s assessment reported “severe rot and decay, recent shedding of crown branches, and several leaders with the outer bark covered in fungal fruiting bodies.”
Mr. Knox’s crew showed up just before 8 a.m., and began its work before a handful of spectators. There was Mr. Spaulding, the firefighter, now 79 and wearing a hearing aid. Mr. Fuller, 63, was there with the police chief and the fire chief. Ms. Bearse, 66, in a green tweed skirt and duck boots, stood beside the trunk for a few moments, almost close enough to brush it with her fingers.
Then the removal began and they all stood back to watch.
At first it was light work, lopping off radiating branches that made up the tree’s crown. The outline of the tree vanished piece by piece, exposing patches of sky. Then the climber was releasing 300-pound lengths of wood that burst and split when they hit the ground.
By 9 a.m., all that remained of the tree was six thick feet of trunk, as bare as a thumb.
When the crew ran chain saws all the way through the trunk — it measured 40 inches in diameter — nothing happened. The maple stood impassively.
They pounded felling wedges into the split, looped a line around the tree and began to tighten it. Then they backed up to a safe distance, and, with a creak and a thud, what remained of the Tenney tree came down. It rolled once, kicked forward by the force of its own falling weight, before coming to rest.
The last few spectators dispersed to the warmth of their cars.
Ms. Bearse took a branch to work with her to put in a jar of water, on the off chance that it would bloom. The Tenney relatives, now scattered across the country, had asked for pieces of the wood. Mr. Fuller went home empty-handed, thinking about all the things that were gone and would never come back.
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