On the way from the playground back to my house to make supper tonight, I stop to talk to Tom over the fence.
“We’re taking that big pine tree down this summer,” he tells me. It’s impressively tall, towering at least 20 or 30 feet above the height of his bungalow. The roots are starting to threaten the basement, and the ground beneath the tree moves when the wind blows. It stands barely two feet from the wall of the house, and I can understand why it’s time for the tree to go.
“It’s full of horseshoe nails,” he adds.
“The tree is?” I ask in astonishment.
“Yes,” he says matter-of-factly, an amused smile twitching his moustache.
Our neighbourhood is 70 years old. In days gone by, before there was a playground behind Tom’s house, there was a corral, with dozens, if not hundreds of horses. The Jocko Brothers (I think he said) used the horses to move freight. In fact, that path we use almost daily in the summer to run down to Paddy’s Pond is a horse trail, one of the trails they used to take freight out to Fish Lake and beyond.
With so many horses around, it was inevitable that some horse would lose a shoe. Horseshoe nails were cheap, and they were sharp. So the men who worked there would just stick a bunch into whatever was around — a nearby tree, for example — so there would always be some nails handy for reshoeing a horse.
Over the years, the unused nails were simply absorbed into the tree as it grew, wrapping its woody flesh around intruding metal.
I stared at the tree some more. Imagine that tree, holding 70-year-old nails. That’s a piece of living history right there.
For a little while longer, anyway.