Tuesday 16 September 2008

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The Old Tree

© John Sawyer – September 2008

This old tree was in my primary school playground. Peppercorn tree I think. A sharp smell when you crushed the leaves, leaving sticky gummy hands.

It had hollows, lots of hollows where I could hide things. Like caves they were.

The roots were great to climb over, the bark almost worn away by boyish boots scuffing and climbing.

The old tree was too high to climb at first, but the branches were long and thin. They hung over the playground and we pulled them down and made them into excellent Hopalong Cassidy whips.

When we got older and more daring we conducted a mock battle on the old tree’s ramparts. A triple bunger blew up in my friend Paul’s hand and burnt him pretty badly. Badly enough to stop playing that day. We were lucky no one lost an eye.

Later the old tree watched over my version of courting. A shady, lazy place in the middle of the bush. Next to a creek one week, a dam the week after. An oasis of shade so frequent that I thought they were native. In the irrigation districts they almost are.

The old tree is now in the playground of my grandkids’ school. The old knots are still there. The shade is still there. The imagination foundry is still there. The stream of memories is still there.

I hope the tree chauvinists won’t obliterate my old tree from Australia.


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