Monday, September 6, 2010

My Favorite Mistake

A Single Tree?

Green weeping willows on the lake's shore

I just remembered a mistake I made when I was in my teens.

Even though I grew up with and around lots of animals of varying species, I had never had a horse until several years after I married.

Even though my Grandfather had always owned a tractor for use in his fields, he himself never drove one. He always hired someone else to do that, until some time after he retired from his other businesses. Then, he used his mule.

While my Mother was growing up, her Father owned and operated a bakery, and what was then called a 5 & 10 cent store, in addition to his farming, and raising such things as watermelons, peanuts, cotton, along with other crops such as corn, etc.

By the time I was six, we had moved to Georgia from Ohio, and my Grandfather and Grandmother had only one of their progeny left at home. That was my Uncle Bill, who was nearly blind, He was probably in his mid to late forties at the time.

My Grandfather would take off in early morning hours to plow his fields and whatever else needed to be done there. He always chose to use his mule pulling a skid, or a flat platform atop skids that the mule pulled. Never once in his ninety-two years did he drive a motor vehicle.

Well, turn the clock ahead to the 1960s, and I was now living with my parents in the south west United States. We lived in Westminster, California in an area where they still did a lot of crop raising for commercial sale.

The man who farmed the land around our had lots of "braceros," in addition to other people who came in with heavy farming equipment doing contract work for him...

For the most part, all farm work was now mechanized, except for harvesting things like tomatoes, green beans lettuce, broccoli and celery, and even carrots. These were usually harvested by the laborers imported from places like Mexico.

There was an old barn on our property, but the only livestock we had were some diary goats, and some chickens and ducks.

One afternoon, I was in our driveway washing my first car, which was given to me by my Dad after he had bought a new 1961 Dodge half-ton pickup truck.

An older man drove up to our place, and asked if we had a single tree. I had no clue what he was talking about. I had to ask him twice to please repeat his question.

I still had no clue. Finally, once I was sure I had heard him correctly, I said, "No Sir, the only tree we have is that big Weeping Willow you see in our back yard."

The man gave me a blank stare, and said, "Thank you," and drove off.

Well, I went inside the house and told Mom about the event, and of course she just busted up, laughing so hard. I thought she was going to cry.

Then, she explained that a "single tree" was the thing they put behind one horse when he is going to be driven, usually for plowing, but also for pulling a cart, or other vehicle.

It is usually connected with chains to the harness on a horse, a pony, or a mule along with the driving reins.

So, even though I had seen trees for such purposes, I had never before heard them called that.

Boy, did I feel so dumb.

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