Cowboys and Indians

The timber harvester has been thinning in the little woods around us – a veritable Judge Dredd of a machine. It has caterpillar tracks and a long arm which can grab a tree and hold it whilst cutting through the base, then shear off the branches to clean the harvested trunk. The machine has been parked at the corner of the little wood nearest us for a couple of evenings. The cab window is tinted with something reflective and metallic and in the evening sun it looks like an insect’s iridescent eye. I know there is no one in the cab, but still find myself checking over my shoulder as I turn the corner to see if it is creeping forward. Lyra gives it a wide berth.

Thinning, though, is necessary. If too many self sown trees crowd together they are weak and in our all too frequent hight winds they can come crashing down. The harvester churns up the forest floor but in a season it will all be greened over again. The red campion is springing back already. I also noticed a giant clump of burdock plants at the edge of the wood. Lachlan was a keen fan of Fentiman’s dandelion and burdock when he was little. To my mind it simply tastes of pink. I do not plan to be harvesting any roots……

Keith joined us for the evening walk a couple of days ago and decided to follow the harvester’s tracks. He was happy as a sandboy crunching over the mud and sheared off branches, declaring to Lyra that this was was “proper exploring”. When I first showed Keith the deer track Lyra and I had found to navigate the little wood, he had looked dubiously at it and declared that he would come back with his machete to improve it a bit. “Why on earth do you have a machete?” I enquired. Keith is many things but Rambo he is not. “My dad gave it to me” Keith replied “he thought it would be useful.” Keith’s dad, when I knew him, was a quiet man who was given to knitted waistcoats and bargain meal deals at garden centres. In restaurants he would unfailingly ask if the soup was home made and whether the lamb’s liver was English. The former would trigger an indignant snort and the latter a trip to the kitchen for further details. When reassured that the soup was not tinned and the lamb’s liver was English he would then smile sweetly and order something else entirely. I remain utterly mystified about the machete.

The next day Lyra and I went back to the wood on the western side. We followed a promising track to the north. The comfrey here was a lovely pale blue and this was well on the way to being our new favourite route until we got to the end and encountered a large pile of felled trees, two heaps of gravel chippings and a dead end. I could see nothing for it but to retrace our steps, find the deer track again and exit via the camel leap.

Wending homeward I mulled things over. It seems that there are people who like to make paths and people who like to find paths. I am definitely in the latter camp. I was ever a committed Indian in all games of Cowboys and Indians. Prancing around slapping your hip and shouting yee ha held no attraction – I was all about lurking silent and unseen in the undergrowth, planning a bloodcurdling revenge, whilst leaving no trace…

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