The appellation of Tree City, which we’ve held for some thirteen or fourteen years now, if I remember correctly, is one of our happy little burg’s proudest titles. As I’ve mentioned before, we take trees seriously here, if for no other reason than the arboreal population has the human population outnumbered by a factor of at least ten to one. We treat trees as if they were members of our family, reading them bedtime stories when they are young, feeding them, watering them, trying to keep them on the moral straight and narrow as they take root in our community and flourish. So it caused no little shock and horror this past week when the astounded populace saw veritable hordes of civil service workers descend upon Main Street like so many hard-hatted Mongols on a rampage and begin hacking down trees left, right, and moderate Republican alike, reenacting some of the worst scenes of arborcidal mayhem since Walt Disney released Paul Bunyan back in 1958. None of these clods stood 63 axe handles high with his feet on the ground and his head in the sky the way old Paul did, nor did any of them have a blue ox named Babe anywhere in the vicinity, although some of them did have a bulldozer named Vermeer, a device that lacked the emotional subtlety of Girl with a Pearl Earring and, despite the name, seemed to belong more to the 20th century Soviet socialist realist school than Holland in its Golden Age, but even with these caveats, the civil servants involved were all exceptionally skilled at felling trees in an urban setting. By the time they were done, not a single tree remained anywhere on the lower approaches of Main Street, rendering the complete lack of any resemblance whatsoever between a view of our happy little burg and Vermeer’s View of Delft even more complete than it was before, if such a thing is possible.
I asked one of the gentlemen rampagers what brought on this sudden need to attack defenseless trees; surely the city government had other things to do with its time and money than cut down trees that aren’t in anyone’s way and provide much needed shade for the many pedestrians wandering up and down Main Street these days. He said he didn’t know. I asked who decided to cut the trees down in the first place, as I didn’t recall any mention of this project in the City Council minutes, which shouldn’t really surprise me, now that I think about it. The minutes of the City Council, along with those of the local board of education, are largely fictional, the actual decisions having already made over coffee and pancakes over at O’Reilly’s Bar and Breakfast. In any case, he didn’t know the answer to that question, either. What then, I asked, was the city government going to do about the sudden lack of shade on Main Street. Our hard-hatted functionary smiled at that question; apparently, I had asked something he knew the answer to at last. Once they got rid of the old trees, he said—they were turning the trees to sawdust there on the street, a process a lot louder than you might think it would be—they were going to plant new trees. He pointed to a lot down the street where a small wood had suddenly sprung up amidst the asphalt, said wood consisting of a variety of sticks standing in bags, said sticks bearing one or two leaves apiece.
I pointed out that it would take at least thirty years for any of these would be trees to give the street any significant shade and that none of them looked healthy enough to withstand more than a few assaults by dogs determined to rid themselves of excess fluid. I then pointed out that in lieu of this, why didn’t the city just leave the old trees where they were and save everyone a lot of time and bother and expense? That way Main Street would still have shade, the dogs would have somewhere to take a leak, and he and his fellow lumberjohns wouldn’t be blocking Main Street for hours at a time, making it impossible for anyone to pass from one end of the city to the other. The fellow allowed that my point made a lot of sense, but that he wasn’t there to make sense, he was there to get rid of trees, whereupon he tossed a large branch of a locust tree into the chopper’s maw, reducing several decades of nature's work to dust in a matter of moments. There is a moral here about the swiftness of bureaucrats when it comes to creating disasters, but I am not sure what it might be.