CLAYTON CRABWELL WAS AWOKEN for the seventh night in a row by the sound of branches rapping against his window. The branches were from his neighbor’s large elm tree that had grown across the property line so that most of the tree was engulfing the Crabwell house. Clayton wearing long johns and a nightcap opened his bedroom window and yelled out a few expletives toward his neighbor’s house. A few minutes later his neighbor, Ulysses Thorndike stretched his head out of his window and returned a volley of profanity that made both of the respective wives of the two men blush. Both wives pulled their husbands by their long johns back into the house and then slammed the windows shut.
Over the course of several years Clayton had asked nicely, then complained, then asked not so nicely for Ulysses to cut the tree down fearing that the overgrown elm would eventually loose a branch on his house. At first Ulysses was nice enough, telling Clayton that he’d cut the tree down as soon as he could get to it. However, as Clayton’s complaints persisted, Ulysses became stubborn and the tree was left to grow even closer to the Crabwells.
Now Clayton had had enough. He hurriedly put on some trousers and then stomped down the stairs and shot out the backdoor. He went into the carriage house, pulled an axe off the wall and went to a workbench on which a hand-crack grinding stone was mounted. He began to turn the crank with one hand while holding the edge of the axe with the other. In the dimly lit shed, the sparks that shot off the axe head illuminated the maniacal grimace on Clayton’s face. Moments later the sound of chopping By the time Ulysses could get dressed and make his way down to defend his tree, the old elm was beginning to creak and sway. Neither man was spry enough to escape the falling tree.
Civility finally prevailed after the two men were forced to spend several weeks sharing a hospital room, Clayton convalescing from a broken arm and cracked ribs—Ulysses nursing a broken leg. The two men ended up becoming fast friends as they both (metaphorically and literally) “buried the hatchet” and helped each other repair the extensive damage received to both homes.