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At the end of the school year, I challenged some of my 8th graders to help me with some columns over the summer. They gave me the first and last lines of a potential fictional short story. My task was to take those lines and write the middle. I was given seven ideas from the kids, so that’s the plan for a couple more weeks! This week’s lines were provided by Lorelei Strom.

One day my big toe fell off. Well, it wasn’t like it just, you know, fell off randomly. No, there’s a whole story to it.

So my family works on a Christmas tree farm in Ontario, Canada. You might think we only have work to do for like two months a year, but this is a year-round operation! Ontario alone has over 30,000 acres of land dedicated to pine trees that are used for Christmas celebrations in North America. This is an industry that’s worth over $8 million a year! It’s on Wikipedia; go check it out if you don’t believe me.

Much of our time is spent planting and caring for the young trees as they sprout toward the sizes needed for Christmas trees. It takes years for the small plantings to grow to the proper size, so when we are done harvesting a crop for the year, we are replanting since they take so much time. We can’t just leave a stretch of land sitting for long.

When harvest time arrives, it’s a whirlwind of activity! Thousands and thousands of trees have to get cut and hauled out of the virtual forest that’s been grown. The current trend is to have some guys go through and cut down trees with chainsaws, followed by others who tie them together and then – get this – attach them to a helicopter! That’s right – a helicopter flies the trees out of the lot to a loading area.

Here the trees are shaken out, baled, and tied up individually for shipment. In less than 24 hours, a Christmas tree has been cut and prepared and is on its way to your home! A thousand trees a day can be shipped via this method. It’s really pretty awesome; there are even videos on YouTube!

Since I turned 16, I’ve been out helping with the harvesting. My dad said, “Loren, it’s time you moved up in the world.” I’d been waiting for this. I was sick of the sissy work of planting and watering and fertilizing. What I really wanted was a chainsaw. Vroom!

Once I’d proven that I could handle a chainsaw, Dad added me to a crew in the northwest section of our property. One of our other jobs in this section was keeping the reindeer at bay. Herds of them liked to wander through, and they could cause problems if they went running or started nibbling at the smaller trees. If you heard an allision around you, you’d best watch out for a batch of reindeer.

The proper name for these animals is R. t. caribou, or woodland caribou. Because we have a river flowing nearby, they tend to congregate there for the water supply. Normally, they’re not much to worry about, but my story revolves around a stampede.

So there I was, cutting down trees at a rapid rate. Sure, I wasn’t as fast as some of the experienced workers, but I could hold my own. Suddenly, I heard some rustling and then one of those thuds I mentioned earlier. Some of the trees started shaking, but I figured the reindeer would pass so I carried on with my work.

I was working on a particularly tough tree and had mistakenly tried to cut through a knot. I was angling downward, trying to work through it, when some of the reindeer came pelting out of the trees straight toward me. Just at that moment, the chainsaw made it through the knot and finished off the pine tree in front of me. However, I was so startled that I didn’t have a chance to pull up once the chainsaw made it through.

The reindeer raced by me, and I recovered my wits before I might have cut off my entire left foot. However, I was not quick enough to avoid danger. The chainsaw had made it through my boot and I could see blood exiting my footwear. Other workers came when they heard my cry. Luckily, one of the helicopters was coming by, so because it was an emergency, they attached me to a batch of trees and flew me out of there.

My big toe had almost been severed, and by the time I got to the hospital, it had completely fallen off. After a few days in the hospital, I was able to return home and learn how to walk without that important digit.

After another week, I returned to the woods to watch, even if I couldn’t be much help. Out of the corner of my eye one day, I spotted a reindeer peering at me from behind a tree. My eyes widened in fear, reliving what had happened a short time before. I also had a cold, so I sneezed, which scared the reindeer away. I kept sneezing on and off for a few minutes and realized that I had some fear to overcome.

It wasn’t true tarandophobia, the fear of reindeer, but I started linking my sneezing to the sight of the creatures. And that’s why I’m allergic to reindeer.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is allision, which means a moving object striking a stationary object, as in, “The allision caused by the car hitting the stop sign woke up the driver.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!


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