I’m thrilled to have Chase Murphy as a guest on my blog. Like he says in his post, sometimes life is about hanging on long enough to get noticed, which is especially pertinent for many people today.
Texas History. The Battle of Big Jim.
By Chase Murphy
A while back my dad asked me to help him move a tree. It was getting choked out by the larger trees around it and in order for the tree to thrive, it needed to be relocated to a new spot on the Murphy ranch. Of all the things to ask me to help with-he wanted me to help him move a tree? Moving and protecting trees isn’t exactly something my dad is known for.
You see, my dad spent most of my formative years looking for standing trees, fallen trees and stacks of brush to cut up for fire wood. He didn’t just settle for cutting the trees he owned, he would go and seek out trees to cut up with his chainsaw. He would ask people if he could cut down their trees! Whenever the state road crews would knock down trees on the side of the road to make room for roads or clear these trees from power lines, my dad would have my brother and I get up early on Saturday just to go and “steal” this wood for our own use. Some of you have dads that wake up early on the weekends to go play a round of golf. My dad was swinging “woods” alright, but not till after he cut them down!
Jim Murphy is somewhat of an amateur lumberjack. He knows a ton about the science of cutting down trees, but never went pro. My brother Michael and I would load his chainsaw and other gear into the back of “Old Blue” (his trusty and rusty pickup truck with around 500k miles on it) wipe the sleep from our eyes and begrudgingly climb into the cab.
We hated this activity. Absolutely hated it. Besides Jim Murphy, who the hell wants to wake up and do this every weekend? Nobody. What an idiotic hobby! Not a person on earth thinks this is a good idea except for “Big” Jim. Michael and I were not allowed to swear in front of our parents, but there is a certain non-verbal communication that siblings have and our faces pretty much said every swear word imaginable.
One time, as we headed out to “liberate” (that’s how my dad probably viewed it) this wood from the piled up prison stacks of brush created by bulldozers; a beautiful and magical thing happened. You see, sometimes the highway department burns brush so they don’t have to move them elsewhere. Ash can be spread out, whereas brush has to be moved. As we traveled down the county road at 6am in the morning, my brother and I couldn’t help but notice the smell of burning oak in the air. Too dark to see smoke, but as we drove past each pile of burned or burning wood, we begin to light up with Christmas-like glee! Stack one, stack two, three and four. All burned. Untouchable and of no use to Jim Murphy! Aha!
As we did our best to cover our smiles, my dad grew angrier. It begin with a mumble and then it quickly escalated to yelling as we drove past each smoldering stack of wood. We turned around and headed back home. My brother and I knew better than to say anything. Tons of sarcastic thoughts ran through our heads, but now was not the time to begin our standup comedy careers. Careers that would be cut short by my dad killing us with his chainsaw. My father insulted everything and everyone in that 20 minute drive home and it was fantastic! Angry poetry! I am sure he was thinking that this was somehow my mom’s fault, as he needed to apply blame to somebody or something. Michael and I did nothing to earn it, but we “won” that day. It was a good day. If we were old enough to do it, we would have drank the finest scotch and smoked the most expensive cigars while celebrating our finest moment. The Alamo was a big battle for Texas, but the Murphy boys defeating General “Big” Jim Murphy should be printed in Texas History text books!
Ok. So back to the tree.
Like when I was a kid, I don’t really ask questions whenever my parents ask me to help them do things. I revert back to childhood and just “get in the truck”. I just grabbed a shovel and a few other tools and headed over to the tree. Although, I had to wonder, out of all the 10s of thousands of trees that grow on that property, why my dad needed this one moved.
You see, this tree had a backstory. It’s wasn’t your average acorn falls, squirrel buries it, rain falls and it sprouts kind of story. Although I am sure that this tree started out that way, but it has an even more profound backstory than that. Years ago, my father and my older brother Michael were clearing cedar and brush in that area and they discovered something unique. Unique enough to stop what they were doing and spare the life of this one tree.
There are tons of different kinds of oak trees in Texas. I would know as I spent my weekends “liberating” them. If you were to look around the property, this oak was the only one of its kind. It’s color and the shape of its leaves were unlike any other and the fact that it was underneath and getting choked out by two very large, older and different oak trees, meant that this tree had a curious backstory. It had to go through a lot to get where it was. To grow in a spot that it wasn’t supper to be in. To survive long enough and grow tall enough for my dad and brother to notice it amongst all the brush and cedar growing around it and to eventually be the one and only tree pardoned by my semi-pro lumber jacking father. And yes, because it was associated with my now deceased brother, the tree had additional meaning.
After 3 hours, we moved it.
Sometimes that’s life. Sometimes it is about hanging on long enough to get noticed. You do the almost impossible and #Tryharder, but the large oaks throwing shade attempt to prevent you from growing. Sometimes that shade is self-imposed and mentally created. Sometimes you need to cut through that shade and realize what’s on the other side. You flourish on your own, but occasionally need the help of others to lift you up and help you grow. Sometimes you need to smile and celebrate your minor victories in life like a couple of teenage boys that just wanted to sleep in on a Saturday morning.
Chase Murphy is a radio imagineer and host, Texan, blogger, author, father of two awesome kids, husband and driver of a 1965 Chevy truck. He’s the author of Pull The Trigger. You can read his blog by clicking here. Follow him on Twitter @Chasemradio.