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Sunday, July 19, 2009

STUMP! A Broadway Hit Sensation.

Many years ago, when I was but a child with dark circles under his eyes from never sleeping and a lustruous, brown bowl-cut, I woke up and lazily got out of bed to see a strange sight.

The front door to our house was open, and I could see my father, on his knees out front. He was tearing out the hedges that had graced the perimeter of my ancestral home since it was constructed in 1955.

"Fuck this!" he screamed, the sun beating down on his burgeoning hint-of-a bald spot. He had grown weary of the yardwork he once prided himself on. When he emigrated to this country from Israel in 1972, perhaps the idea of owning a home and doing his own yardwork appealed to his lust for accomplishment. After all, there isn't any yardwork to do on your house in B'Nai Brach. What are you going to do there-- mow the dirt? Any shrub that would dare to grow there will eventually be obliterated by a ketusha rocket anyway.

But the thrill of hedge pruning wore off eventually for my poor father and, one morning, the man just cracked. The primal instincts of the desert beast that had been carefully kept at bay under his faux American veneer tore through him like the Incredible Hulk busting through his button-down Oxford shirt. At eight years old, I could do little but watch him in utter bewilderment. And bring him 7-Up whenever he appeared on the verge of collapse.

I prayed hard that I would not end up like him. I was relying heavily on my mother's genes to mellow out, distill and dilute the hot-blooded Israeli insanity that threatened to one day compel me to do battle with Arabs and/or shrubbery.

Alas, it was not to be.

When my wife and I purchased this house in February, we noticed that the former owners had left eleven stumps of rather appreciable size and girth in the flower beds of our house for us to deal with. They were unsightly, twisted, ugly things. They accounted in large part for our house looking like a set piece for a Tim Burton film. Not only were they pretty fucking ugly, but the termite inspector who checked out the house prior to settlement left us with an ominous warning,

"Those stumps are a haven for termites. If you don't get those suckers out, you're going to have big problems. Count on it."

In our typical way, we ignored the warning as we were quickly overwhelmed with other problems: a perpetually clogged bathroom sink, leaking gas pipes, a psychotic oven with a mind of its own, and a significant dearth of closet space which resulted in us calling in our carpenter friend and only now, after his construction of a 7 foot closet can we take most of our clothes out of the boxes and suitcases in which they've lived since February.

One night a month or so ago, we were walking the dog around the neighborhood and we walked past one home in particular where we saw an unusual sight-- twisted and torn tree stumps, freshly uprooted and lying on the side of the road. The victorious gentleman who did all that work was filling in the holes with soil as we past. He noticed my wife and I, who had stopped dead in our tracks to admire his handywork.

"Hello," he said, rather jovially.

"You did all that?" I asked, with a touch of idolotry in my voice.

"Yeah, it was tough," he replied.

My wife told him about our particular dilemma and elucidated her view that we were incapable of removing them ourselves.

"Oh, no," he said, "you can do that."

The guy had obviously got us pegged wrong, rather like the supermarket clerk yesterday who tried very courageously to talk to me about baseball.

As we had done with the termite inspector, we ignored this guy. Until this morning. We were doing some light gardening and, during a Diet Coke break as we were sitting on our porch and I was staring at the stumps I said,

"God, I sure would like to tear those fuckers out today."

Uh-oh.... was I turning Israeli? Was it, after twenty-nine years of keeping the beast at bay, finally happening?

"Are you serious?" my wife asked, probably trembling a little.


"Well, let's get the tools from the garage."

The "tools" by the way, were tools that the previous owners had left in the garage, and were probably created by friends of Jesus Christ. They're all wood-handled and very, very old.

As we attacked Stump #1 without mercy or logic, we suffered a minor setback:

Not to be downhearted or defeated, we hopped into the car and went to the local hardware store where we had a philosophical dilemma. My wife was aghast at the prices for fiberglass-handled shovels and pitchforks. Between $30.00-$40.00, as opposed to the wooden-handled ones which were about half the cost.

"I'm not paying $30.00 for a fiberglass shovel," she declared.

"Right, but the wooden one broke, so why are we going to buy another wooden one that's just going to break, too?"

"It's too expensive."

"You know what I would have done if you weren't here?" I asked her rhetorically, "I would have bought the fiberglass one, thrown out the receipt and the price sticker in the trashcan at the store, brought it home and lied to you about the price."

"That's nice to know, dear."

We ended up buying the $30.00 fiberglass one.

In the end, it's good that we bought that one because these stumps were big motherfuckers held in place by some unbelievably thick roots. We also stopped at my parents house and liberated/borrowed/stole their pruners to clip some of the roots once we had dug down far enough. Miraculously, the former owner's elderly, wooden pitchfork held up and my brand-new toy performed excellently.

However, neither tool could stop me from getting hurt. A long forgotten shard of glass was imbedded deep into the dirt and, as I was digging around down there looking for root ends, while wearing heavy-duty gardening gloves, mind you, I felt a slicey-slice.

Cut straight through. And it left our front porch looking like a scene from CSI.

After some first aid provided by EMT-in-Training Mrs. Apron, and some covering of a silver dollar-sized blister on my palm, we were back at work, Mrs. Apron twisting through the dirt and roots with the pitchfork, and me macheting my way through the roots with my fiberglass shovel, spearing them like, um, a fucking crazed half-Israeli psycho.

In the end, the sidewalk was littered with the stumpy carcasses, our prey, our kill. Yeah! Fuck all's y'alls, stumpy-assed motherfuckers! As we Israelis say, "May a trolley car grow in your stomach!"

Aren't they positively awful-looking? And to think, that was the first thing our guests saw upon walking up our walkway. Well, if we had guests, I mean. Here's a close-up of these bitches:

Was it worth the bloodshed and the copious amounts of sweat? In a word: fuck yes. Something very positive was done today, and it wasn't just the beautification of our little patch of the world. Today's hard work proved to my wife that we are, on occasion, capable of achievements that may seem daunting, if not next to impossible. For three solid hours we hacked away at those sonsofbitches, and we did it. Sure, we only got out eight and there are three humongous ones, beyond our capacity to remove ourselves, but those will be dealt with at a later date. For now, it's time to enjoy the fruits of our labor and be proud of what we can do with our own mettle.
And fiberglass.

Sure, it's a little hard to type right now, but I feel great.


  1. And the sequel: Israelite Schnoz Strikes BACK!

    (You're no where near as scrawny as you think, y'know!)

  2. I think Seb likes you..! Great pics!

  3. Wow - reading that post makes me want to find some stumps to rip out of the ground. Good job.

  4. The last picture of the mauled hand raised in victory is particularly inspiring.

    Still, there's no way I am doing yard work... um, ever.


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