Amish & Mennonite

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Once Removed

Chapter One: The Harder Book

They cut down twenty trees on Klassen Avenue this week. Elms. They claimed they were diseased and marked each one with a red dot just hours before the Thiessen boys came with their chainsaws. The whole time I sat there in the truck with the engine idling and the radio tuned to the funeral announcements, while I waited for Mr. Vogt to pound on the hood a couple times and say, "nah, Timothy, looks like you're good to go." Then I hauled it all off to the dump to be burned.

I hesitate to admit it, because I do have other ambitions, but I spend my days driving truck and operating heavy machinery for the Parks and Recreation department here in Edenfeld. They call it Parks and Recreation even though the entire extent of our recreational facilities consists of several windswept fields with a few old tractor tires piled up to keep the children occupied.

The largest such space is called PBJ Wiens Memorial Park. PBJ Wiens is actually still alive and still our mayor, but the town figured it would be more economical to include the word 'Memorial' right away rather than waiting to add it in later. Officially our job is to keep the grass cut in summer and the snow cleared in winter, but really that's not enough work to warrant a crew of nearly a dozen people, so we make ourselves useful in other ways. For one thing, the mayor has initiated a very aggressive disease-prevention program, which requires the swift removal of trees that are past their prime and buildings that, in PBJ's words, "attract vermin if left to their own devices." These are the very same trees and buildings that other towns might try to preserve for environmental or historic reasons. According to the sign on the highway, Edenfeld was founded in 1876, but good luck finding anything older than about the mid-1990s. There are some exceptions, of course, but the Parks and Rec crew is rapidly making them a thing of the past.

It's August, so we've been given free rein on tree removal. "If you see an elm that looks iffy, go for it!" said Mr. Vogt. He's slim, taller than most, and always speaks a little louder than is necessary for the context, which makes him a suitable candidate to run a demolition crew, but not someone you'd prefer to chat with for prolonged periods in the church lobby.

I wonder what will happen now that Klassen Avenue's been cleared of its sickly elms. The last time a whole row of trees went down like this, a 'For Sale' sign was placed on the property within a week, though the loss we felt was somewhat mitigated by the fact they put a liquor store on the property. It was our first one and, according to rumours, it's the busiest in rural Manitoba. Now we don't have to sneak off to Ste. Adele for booze. We can get our cheap wine-in-a-box right here in Edenfeld. Another patch of elms was declared diseased in order to clear some land for a dollar store last year, which is also the busiest in the region. Progress is progress.

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