I was stumped. I had been hacking and levering at a small stump for about a paragraph of swearwords. I would have sat down to rest and ponder upon the stump stumping me but the miserable relic was too small and had numerable jutting sawed-off points. I think the tenacious dead thing would have appreciated the ignoble discomfort that sitting down on it could provide. From the stump’s view, it might feel like justice. The stump was the remains of a shrubby mugo pine. All the branches had been hastily chopped off some time in the misty past, leaving a macabre bouquet of stubby branch-ends, appearing like a dead octopus with writhing legs pointing classically skyward, the eyes now only X’s.
The tenacity of the dead is realized when you have a stump to remove, I find. Chaining it to the back of your three-quarter-ton diesel with the duallies and the fifth wheel and flooring it isn’t very sporting. And anyway, tackling a stump with only hand tools provides some lessons. There are lots of fun things to do with a big stump that don’t involve digging it out. Small stubby shrub stumps are just annoying trip hazards and should be removed. No motors, no winches, no cheating. Just you, an axe, loppers and a spade.
Anyway, so I’m chopping and levering. I’m stoically straining, studiously stabbing said stupid stump. The surface roots give way to chopping and swearing, but the surly shrub had pinned itself to the slope by winding a few roots deeply into the rocky rubble directly beneath it. This species is obviously adapted to survive on some pretty precarious slopes, using its roots to chase deep water and hold the slope together. The dead tree’s anchor/taproot was what had me stumped.
“Aha!” I say, and start to spin the stump. After ten rotations, I am impressed. “Remarkably pliant root wood”, I mutter between strings of expletives, one pinched finger throbbing, back aching. Finally, the dead thing gives up. Denied its sacred burial site. You’d think if you lived your whole life in one spot without moving you’d be entitled to die and decompose there. You might even fight for the right. Sorry, no. Thou stump which I drag away like the head of a conquered samurai, holding you by your topknot, you’re off to the big municipal chipper in the sky. Thou shalt be born again.