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By Joseph Dempsey remindsme

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The robin's-egg blue 1950 Desoto seems to be in substantially better condition than its much younger, similarly dispatched cousin to the left. We're not really certain what the circumstances ushering in this wide swing of deterioration are, so judgment as to the cause and effect is not supported by a full plate of data.

Not quite all of which dredged up the story and fate of the Dempsey's in-the-front-yard willow tree. It was in the early fifties. The crown jewel of the Dempsey front yard at 1016 North 36th Street in Fort Smith, Arkansas, was a luxurious willow tree; I'd say 35-plus feet tall. My brothers and our fellow conspirators in the neighborhood played many a happy hour in the ample shade afforded by the tree. It was a popular summer shelter from the sun.

The tree was on the "the parking," a term long since fallen into disuse.

For those not familiar with the term, "the parking" was the area between the street and the sidewalk in front of your domicile. No one ever parked on it, so I always wondered why they called it "the parking." An explanation was never forthcoming.

One dreadful night a storm thundered through the neighborhood like a herd of crazed buffalo. As a result, the tree was split asunder. It was like losing a treasured pet. Everyone except my father cried, and I believe he was not far from it. In the aftermath, he set about reducing the fallen willow to manageable pieces. We groaned at the sounds of the saw and the axe as he converted our beloved tree to a stack of willow parts.

It was almost as if it were our own bones suffering this ignominy.

When he completed the grisly task, only the unearthed stump remained. It had to go. My father, over the next several days, with pick and shovel, dug around the stump to facilitate removal.

When the time came, he found a chain somewhere, wrapped the chain around the stump, and attached the other end to the rear undercarriage of our black 1946 Chevy. The Chevy, with a standard transmission, did not budge the stump, despite numerous jerks, snatches and pulls. I noticed a funny smell, too. Years later I would recognize the odious odor, to wit: an overheated clutch.

While my father was scratching his head, our neighbor, Mr. Young, allowed as how his vehicle might be more suitable for the job and volunteered to finish it. By this time, a pretty good crowd had gathered since daytime TV had not yet infected the general populace. Mr. Young was the proud owner of a Dodge of similar vintage to Mr. Powder Blue above. The engines and basic bodies of the Dodge and Desoto were pretty much the same. (The Desoto made it to the sixties before Chrysler jettisoned the brand).

Turns out, Mr. Young's Dodge had an automatic transmission and was probably several hundred pounds heavier than the Chevy — much improved physics for the job at hand. He hooked up to the stump, took his place at the wheel, and gently applied throttle. As the chain tightened, the growing audience watched with nervous tension and bitten lips. The Dodge inched forward and the stump began to move. Mr. Young never let off the accelerator until the stump was several feet from the wound it left in the earth. The crowd broke forth with applause and cheers. As he stepped from the Dodge, Mr. Young's neighbors surrounded him as if he had just smoked the competition at the Daytona 500. What was one family's loss turned into a neighborhood's triumphant event. Not a bad ending.

N O T E S:  
Nikon D200 / Nikon 18-70 f3.5-5.6 G Zoom / Post processed in Photoshop CS3.

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