The Pitts Lumber Company: Lumber Hacks & the Old Crusty Tractor

There was a pleasant smell to lumber
that kind of matched the familiar whirring
of the saws and the noon whistle.
You didn’t notice any of it until it stopped smelling
or stopped whirring or stopped whistling
in its high-pitched voice.
Lumber hacks stacked higher than the old home place,
even higher than the trees planted by Bashie
all those years ago hid the reality of
the Pitts Lumber Company on the other side.
They’d now grown taller than the house,
and to us it was the Big Divide that we
made our way through like so many pioneers.
On Sundays when no workers were around
and the sawmill was quiet, we’d forge a path
through the bushes and vines.
to the clearing where lumber hacks
waited for us to imagine them into buildings,
or fortresses, or castles to climb to our heart’s content.
From their tops they became lookout towers where
we could see for miles and miles, even past Table Rock,
even as far as Grandfather Mountain
where Uncle Willie lived in Daddy’s stories.
On the lumber plant side of Bashie’s tall trees,
along the road the workers took each morning to the lumber plant,
their black metal lunch boxes swinging from their hands,
someone had abandoned a very large, very old tractor
Daddy affectionally named The Old Crusty Tractor.
We could barely reach the top to climb onto it,
and when we did reach its seat, we were high above Daddy.
The gear shift was all rusty, but we’d take turns pretending to drive it.
Once when we tried to get down by ourselves and gotten stuck,
Daddy cupped his hands and called out, “Uncle Willie!!!”
And suddenly the ground beneath us began to shake and rumble
under Uncle Willie’s weight, as the gentle giant hurried to our rescue,
and that’s the day Daddy’s Uncle Willie stories were born.

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