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by Eric Miller

The farthest reaching branches of the white birch trees, which lined the perimeter of the field, gently made contact with each other. It was a beautiful site, except for one far corner, where the ground dipped into a basin like depression where a rotting stump barely kept it's head above the pooled, muddy water. It was an eyesore, as well as a source of a foul smell. The neighbors who lived closest to it complained constantly about the odor and begged me to have the stump removed. Naturally, the situation made me very uncomfortable, weighed heavily on me, and ultimately wore me down. I relented and got someone to give me an estimate to remove it.

"It will be a big job," the contractor said, as he scanned the field and poked about. "The flooded corner is a problem and the roots look like they go deep in every direction. It even looks like there are some underground electrical wires which I will have to be careful not to damage."

This was really not what I wanted to hear. As far as I was concerned, Mother Nature was just doing her thing, and who was anyone to make such a big deal about it. The water would eventually evaporate, and the sun would dry the wet, rotting stump. Time would heal. A rush, expensive project with inevitable complications was the last thing my strained budget needed.

After a lengthy discussion and some gentle haggling, we agreed on a price and a day to do what needed to be done. But wouldn't you know it, old Murphy's Law reared it's ugly head, and something that could go wrong, did. The contractor called to say he was running late. When he finally arrived, I was tired and irritable, which he couldn't understand, since he was the one who was going to do all the work, not me. He set up a sump pump, and then he made a trench around the stump with his backhoe. Slipping a hat onto his head from which hung a protective, clear plastic visor, he began to section off pieces of the stump with his jagged tooth spinning blade. A crowbar alone was insufficient to lift up the far reaching roots, so he  exposed a wider circle around what was left. Patiently he proceeded to cut each portion of the exposed roots and lift them out piece by piece.

Although it was a cool, damp, autumn day, he sweated profusely as he struggled to overcome the resistance he faced. Finally, he stepped back, removed his visored hat, wiped his brow, and proclaimed victory, with visible relief.

He cleaned up the site, which proved more challenging than he expected, as the soggy, gummy surface stuck to every tool he used. He said the railroad looking tire tracks would not remain permanently.

"One wisdom tooth down, and three to go," he announced, as I held an ice-pack to my face. "See you next week to take out the stitches."