Lefty peered up through the branches of the most gigantic of the pines. He was reverent about the woods like that- always studied a tree carefully before starting his back cut. Some of the other fallers thought he was foolish but Lefty had seen trees do strange things when they fell. Safety was part of it but I really think it was the look a good hunter shares with his quarry before each kill; a look of mutual respect….almost a love for the being itself.
While Lefty stood transfixed, a micro-burst from a distant thunder head blew down through a small notch in the ridge above us. The colossal ancient tree swayed causing a dead limb near the top to break loose from the trunk and ricochet through the branches. It dislodged a hornet’s nest on the way down. There was a soft innocent sounding pop as a dark grey object as big as a basketball flew through the air, bounced on the ground and rolled at Lefty’s feet. There was no time for Lefty to react. A cloud of angry hornets burst from the broken nest. Lefty dropped his chain saw as the insects swarmed his face and hands. He slapped at the swarm and turned to run toward the creek, but he never made more than a couple of steps.
We found lefty sprawled across a log several hundred feet from the water, his features swollen beyond recognition. The hornet’s nest was so riled that the crew had to wait until the sun went down to retrieve the body. The place where Lefty died seemed peaceful and tranquil with cool shady stands of old growth ponderosa pines and small ferns and wild flowers all the way down to Monument creek. Big boulders of black basalt lava rock pocked the hillside and bear sign was everywhere. We never allowed the company to log any more trees in that little valley. We called it lefty’s place and we left it alone.
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