Knocking Down Trees With Our Bare Hands

The summer and fall of 1983 (the year I turned 10) we lived in a small Maine town in the middle of nowhere. My parents were inbetween houses, the previous one having sold much quicker than expected. So quick we couldn’t take the dog with us.

I liked living in a small town. Summer is a time for being outdoors. I’ve never been a gamer, but we had no videogames anyway. (Though we got an Atari the following year, I had lost interest by the time Nintendo came along).

I liked going into the woods and knocking down trees. They were dead pine trees, not yet fallen, but easily fallen given a little push.

My sister would join me. She’s a year older and shared my childhood fascination with dirt and bugs. And knocking down trees.

“I’m the strongest man in the forest!” And she was too. Even though she wasn’t a man, and I wasn’t either.

Another sister (who is a couple years younger) had an aversion to such things, though she watched the lumberjacking from a safe distance. A third sister (yes, you, Jess!) might have been watching Sesame Street at the time.

We made a fort. Or maybe hovel is a better word. There were three granite boulders forming a U shape, and we placed branches over the top. The hovel was full of dirt and bugs.

Mark destroyed it.

I know it was him.

Mark was a high school boy who had a chainsaw, which is normal is rural Maine. His parents heated the house with wood, and it was his job to turn trees into firewood.

One day I discovered that my hovel was destroyed. The branches on top were cut down the middle and caved in.

It was a perfect cut.

Damn you, Mark!

A few years later when my older sister discovered boys she renounced her fascination with dirt and bugs. But eventually she married a sometime farm boy, and today she handles dirt (and chickens) more than I do.

Meanwhile, I’m a social worker at a hospital that’s obsessed with properly washing your hands. And I find myself doing that even at home.


Author: Dave DuBay

Dave is a social worker from Phoenix, Arizona. He blogs at He's also at

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