Schizophrenia Runs Deep, Into Your Life it Will Creep:

Part II: The Insanity Escalates.  (Read part I here). 

Crazy happy monkey smiling
Don't look at me, I'm innocent. 
Dale spent the remainder of that summer digging out the roots of that large fir tree with only hand tools.  Perhaps he was worried that an evergreen tree, like blackberry bushes or bamboo had an elaborate scheme to sprout up again despite the fact that you had hacked all its limbs away, or maybe he was just thorough, but that tree’s roots had to go. 

Dale would sometimes be five feet below ground, and we would just see dirt clods flying behind his head.  He would finally notice us in his work, and salute us with the middle finger; his way of acknowledging our spectatorship presence (much like a monkey flinging poo at a zoo).

tree trunk roots washed ashore
The complexity of nature is astounding. 
Looking down at the massive root base was an impressive site.   I’ve often seen the root structures of trees washed ashore at the coast and have to remember that nature, with her unlimited horsepower, removed that tree from its anchor, whereas, Dale, a gangly man in his early 40s, did the same thing over two months hard labor that the state wouldn’t dare ask of its prisoners.  Dale was determined to pull the thing out in one intact piece.  He tunneled under parts of his remaining driveway, which bravely held their integrity like pieces of a bridge.  At some point you could see Dale was frustrated.  To follow a root to its tiny, hairy caps is probably as frustrating as the early Americans mapping large rivers and small creeks desperate to find a transcontinental waterway across this vast nation. 

Therizinosaurus dinosaurs male and female zebra pattern
Therizinosaurus went extinct because it had the unlucky
distinction of tasting exactly like a perfect blend
of chicken and Zebra.  Mmm, Zebra.  
So Dale, already cracked, showed even more frustration fissures.  He eventually, reluctantly, hacked away with an ax at the root structure ends.  It was violent, and beautiful.  He swung with the unending energy and accuracy of a professional sport logger.  One morning, as Corey and I waited for the bus on one of the first days of school, Dale invited us over to see his accomplishments.  In the small bowl shaped dirt-walled pool, laid the huge root system, fully defeated, ready to be mounted on a wall as a trophy.  And it would’ve looked majestic as a piece of art.  Dale had painstakingly dusted all the dirt of all the thousands of directionally chaotic root fibers, like he was a paleontologist dusting off a rare Therizinosaurus fossil. 

I looked down into the tree root grave, and felt like saying something eulogistic.  Even at 11 years old, there was something sad in seeing the death of something so majestic, even if it was only a tree.  But Dale beat me to words.

“Huh, huh…I killed that son of a b!+ch!”   In a tone that could’ve been the inspiration for Butthead in the MTV series that came out the next year. 

beavis and butthead mtv cornholio Corey and I looked at each other, and sheepishly laughed, much like when we did when we secretly watched Beavis impersonate Cornholio years later at night without our parent’s knowledge. 

We learned that Dale’s family lived on the other side of the abandoned church.  They owned a huge farm that sold much of its products to Dairygold.  It seemed like every four people in this huge Dutch enclave in northern Washington owned a farm.  The Van Weerdhuizen family (the surname we will call Dale’s family for sake of anonymity) helped Dale remove the tree carcass from the ground with the aid of some heavy-duty tractors. 

Then the rains started, and Dale’s empty tree grave was quickly becoming a hillbilly pool.  I don’t know where he found the 25 cubic yards of soil necessary to refill the hole, but he accomplished the cover up in one day with only his trusty shovel and wheelbarrow. 

I came home one day, and the patch was cemented over.  No doubt Dale did this himself, as it was much too perfect to be done by someone not emotionally attached to the job.  Dale though, despite his beautiful work, was unhappy. 

“It doesn’t match!” he said to me, as I dismounted the bus.  In my infinite 5th grade knowledge, said, “Well, it is fresh cement…the rest of the driveway has had years to turn the darker grey.” 

This answer wasn’t enough for Dale.  He gave it a few weeks, and still when the patched cement didn’t age to the darker grey of the surrounding driveway, he had had enough.  His sledgehammer woke me up before my school alarm.  The dull thud of iron on cement, repeated almost metronomically, woke the whole family and we watched dumbfounded from our windows, a familiar scene in the coming years. 

My Dad, never afraid of any kind of confrontation, walked across the road and had a very down to earth conversation with Dale, but couldn’t convince him to stop his destruction.  I watched as my Dad walked down to the road to Dale’s parents house.  I never knew the level of passionate negotiations my father did to get help for Dale over these years; but Dale’s family was too old school, too fundamentalist Christian, too tired of dealing with a special needs child, to get Dale the treatment he needed to get healthy.  His families approach was to buy Dale a home two doors away, let him work on the farm for spending money (he was literally paid only a few dollars a day), and monitor him from afar. 

I’m sure many parents of special needs children feel this way.  It must be exhausting work.  To know that your job isn’t done after 18-years, and that you will never get to see your child grow into a fully function adult.  Still, in my opinion, It doesn’t forgive the Van Weerhuizen’s Laissez-faire approach to their familial responsibilities. 

Old church chapel style building
Who doesn't want three years worth of renovations?
On the way back to our rented house, my dad talked to a realtor on the property of the abandoned church.  And with speed of someone with insider’s information, Dad bought the turn of the century chapel-style church on an acre of beautiful land for under $30K. 

So we started the bizarre process of moving across the street.  Problem was, the church was just a shell.  One huge open sanctuary, and an attached industrial style cemented bathroom.  So dad borrowed a 30 foot travel trailer from friends for us to temporarily live in, and he started the process of completely remodeling the inside of the building to make it our home. 

old burned up ugly travel trailer redneck
"Well sure it looks rough on the outside, but it's surprisingly livable on the inside"--Dad.  

As if moving your entire belongings across the street, compressing three kids and a very pregnant mom into a travel trailer, and starting a huge expensive renovation project with no blueprints wasn’t enough; Dale greeted us, his new next-door neighbors, in the only logical way Dale could think of. 

He stripped the bark off the trunks of all nine trees that shared our property line.  Nine trees, probably 20 years old,  at least 40 feet high, now stripped naked yellow-white and bleeding sap, welcomed us to the neighborhood, like unfinished totem poles. 

Why thank you Dale, you shouldn’t have.

End of Part II.  

1 comment:

  1. That church picture looks just like the real one! Can't wait for the next 20 parts to this story!