Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It was funny, at the time, not just gut-busting funny, but veins-popping-on-your- blood-red-face hysterical, and I don’t know why. They were just a few slivers of chewed-up paper, hard enough to roll into a little ball and throw,  yet mushy enough to stick to something--spitwads. And the last one I heaved stuck to the inside of Wade’s ear. 

Mrs. Alexander, who wasn’t a day under 100, didn’t see, or hear, any of the action, but things unraveled when she asked Wade why he was digging into his ear with a pencil. Someone burst out laughing, she looked at me, saw my nearly purple face, then asked me what was so funny. Ultimately, the spitwad fight was discovered, a lecture given on how second graders should behave, and those involved were given the choice of taking a note home to have signed, and returned, or a phone call to the parents. I chose the note, thinking forgery a possibility.

My uncle Kenny, who was sixteen at the time, could certainly help me with a signature, if he would sign, maybe I would not tell about him drinking beer, with his friends, behind the garage. I showed him the note, he called me some name, involving dirty words, then took the note to my mom, who told me to wait,until my dad came home. Uncle Kenny met my dad at the car, told him the news. He came directly to my bedroom, asked what happened, and took his belt off. Suddenly, my mom called for him, he left, but did not come back to the room.
I waited.

An hour. 


I heard the family eating supper, saw my dad go to the garage and get the lawnmower,and begin mowing the yard. I ducked underneath the window, everytime his head went by.

Three hours. 

I heard them in the family room, watching television. I had to pee, really bad, but knew the danger of going to the bathroom.  I took the empty root beer bottle, that I got at the school
carnival, and filled it up. Felt better,  but now had a bottle of pee,  which I emptied from the window, after popping the screen loose.

Four hours.

I rested on the bed, listening for my name to be mentioned, listening for footsteps.

Five hours.

Next thing I knew, my mom was waking me for breakfast. I didn’t take the signed note to Mrs. Alexander, and she never asked for it.

No one ever called my parents.

Friday, February 18, 2011

In spring, 1963, we moved from Savannah to Wichita. During the first week at the new school my third grade teacher put a finger under my chin, lifted it up slightly and said, “Why don’t you try looking up when you walk? Be proud of yourself.” I am sure her goal was to help me fight, as she perceived, my low self esteem. What she didn’t know was that I came from a place where there were at least four varieties of snakes, always hidden in thicket and underbrush, which could strike a kid’s bare foot, leading to amputation or death. I learned those small details before kindergarten. No, she couldn’t have understood that. This new school, in Kansas, was surrounded by wheat fields on two sides and the biggest problems were mice and rabbits.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

For years I have been thrilled with the shows on Animal Planet. Even though there is considerable film editing before it gets to viewers, there is a grit and grind about the episodes that keeps me in front of the tube. With so much life to be enjoyed, and death that strikes quickly, or slowly, in myriad ways, I connect and understand it for what it is, as most humans do, and it seems so easy to apply many of the situations to humans. Sounds cliché and silly, but it is the cycle of life. However, the saddest occasions for me to watch are the changing of the guard scenes, whether they happen in a pack, pride, troop, herd or any other social structure. The alpha or dominant male that has sired throngs of offspring, protected, directed and, on occasion, provided, has his relatively short reign ended in a usually violent, winner take all showdown.
I have reached a milestone recently that makes me think about the changing of the guard in the animal kingdom.  Actually, I probably reached that point some time back, just never acknowledged it. I went trail riding with my youngest son, 18, on trails that I have ridden many times without incident. That day was different. It was the day chosen, for whatever reason, to be my personal Animal Planet day of reckoning, of awakening and self-assessment. It was a reality check-up. Up to that day I was the dominant male, the king of my domain. I have not been defeated or banished. I am still the father. I am still the alpha male in most respects, but my physical domination has given way in my own changing of the guard episode.

All three of my sons always referred to my strength as “man muscles.” I had, what seemed to them, a system of iron cables and precision pulleys and wenches beneath my skin. Only a few months ago I wore my youngest down in an arm wrestling match. My scrawny arm holding firm, until it was time to finish off his bulk. I think he was slightly shocked, since he works out lifting weights every day, and I do virtually nothing to maintain condition.

Anyway, I led for the first part of our bike ride, then, at the second rest and drink stop, I told him to go first. He offered me some pointers, to make my pedaling easier. I was sucking for air, he was hardly breathing, so I suppose those two rest stops were really for me. It didn’t take long for something unfortunate to happen. From behind, I watched him jump his bike over a small clump of roots, with about a one-foot drop back onto the narrow trail. Who can’t do that? Well, me. I got up speed, reached the roots, jerked up on the handlebars and made the small jump, with only one problem; I landed in the soft sand alongside the eight-inch path. The sand acted like a perfect set of brakes. The bike smashed down on its side, I flew off and skidded a few feet. No harm or injury. Physically. Through the aches and scratches it struck me as funny and I lay there laughing, for nearly a minute, before mounting up and continuing.

It wasn’t even ten minutes before the next mishap. I was pedaling down a small hill, attaining a decent speed, to where my son was waiting at the bottom. When I was several yards away I braked hard, squeezing a bit too strong on the front brake handle, plus I was leaning too far forward with my body and, once again, found a patch of soft sand. My bike did a beautiful cartwheel, catapulting me eight or ten feet onto a hardpan, gravelly area, where I plunked my head against a rock. I was not seriously hurt. Physically. However, I was scuffed, stunned and a little unaware. He came running over to check on me. Again, after getting collected, I laughed, told him I had never fallen before and here I had done it twice in front of him. As I mounted the bike and began pedaling, I started playing in my mind those episodes of dethroned big cats, wild horses, wolves, baboons and more, applying the downfall of each to myself. Yes, my reign of physical dominance was over. I realized I was a finite commodity and took my place behind him as we began the last couple miles back to the truck.

My youngest, our baby, rode ahead slowly, at first, his words of concern, the same words every minute or so, getting smaller and softer as the distance between us increased, “You okay, dad? You okay?”  In my huffing and puffing I responded each time that I was fine. Then, he was no more than a speck, way up ahead, until he disappeared beyond the last bend in the trail, leaving me with my pounding heart, heaving breath, the beauty of  a yellowish late-day light and a concert from the mockingbirds, singing about how lakes go dry, deserts flood and, sometimes, the moon darkens the sun.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I love to weed the beds by hand. Low, beneath the breeze that shakes a scratch into the leaves of the podocarpus and thrusts a rustle through crisp iris blades, I scoop ungloved fingers into the blackness, squeeze the moist grit, watch it build a stain on my skin, feel the moisture being transferred from my body into the earth. Part of me will nourish spouts, grow into something of substance and, in turn and time, deliver its own seed. Hands will leave when the person leaves. The dirt will remain as long as there is a planet. It is innate in humans, this toying with the soil, something that cannot be denied or squashed. Then, at the end, a splinter -- a drop of blood to honor every child who has been told to “stay out of the dirt!”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

More treeblog trail things!

My first two years of elementary school we lived in Savannah. I considered it a magical place, with the swamp behind our house, a thick and forbidding woods to the south, creeks and rivers in the area. In short, is was a place that seemed custom made for boys. I loved the Spanish moss, still do.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I have had an extraordinary week of walks, including great weather and two coup stick touches on armadillos! The big excitement came in the county conservation area near Fishhawk Creek. I was following a fresh trail of feral hog snufflings, hoping it might lead to an un-rooted bed of truffles, when I happened into the shade of a massive oak. Seemed like a good place to relax and take a drink, so, I sat and leaned against the bark and rested.

I wasn’t long until I felt something scratch along my back. This is dangerous- critter country and one learns to move quickly in this wild. I tucked, rolled and jumped to a defensive position, my trusty razor-edged Buck knife in hand, only to find nothing. Then a rough, ultra-bass voice, “How would you like it if everyone took advantage of the shade you provide, without offering anything in return?”
I pivoted all directions. Nothing.
“Right here in front of you, stupid!”
The only thing there was the tree, the granddaddy of all trees in the area. I eased back, keeping my eye on the oak. There are homeless people living in the woods, at times, and I thought I was being pranked.               “Did you just talk to me?”
“Who else is around, numbskull?”
I darted to the left to check the other side of the tree, expecting to catch someone. Again, nothing but the tree. Then, there was a sudden storm of acorns, hundreds falling on and around me. It was not dangerous or painful, just strange. Could it be? I lived in Wichita once, as a young boy, so, I was not in Kansas anymore!

“Tree?” Asks a meek me.
“Who else?” Says he.

So, I won’t go into all the words and details, but we engaged in lengthy conversation and it happens that the tree played a small roll in The Wizard of Oz. He is still bitter about events and shared his story for the first time. The arborists who provided the trees to the studio failed to reveal that the oaks would be playing the part of apple trees. It wasn’t until after rehearsals, in which the trees threw acorns at the characters, that apples were tied to their branches. Those that refused to pluck and heave the apples were placed in the background, or hauled to the back lot by forklifts, where they burned, from the heat radiating off the asphalt onto their root balls, and died.

During the first shooting the tree said one of the apples he tossed plunked the head of the Mayor of Munchkin Land. That created an outrage in the little people ranks and they began peeing on the oak’s root system.
“I nearly got cirrhosis of the bark,” he lamented. “The main characters were great to work with, but those Munchkins were a vile bunch.”

The trees received no sunlight and very little water during the filming, the director being worried about the cost of moving them outdoors on a daily basis and about actors slipping on wet spots along the yellow brick road. “There was an horrific mistreatment of arboreal life!” The oak choked up a bit at the memory of the difficult time.

In the end, the trees’ grievances were heard and as additional compensation the studio agreed to relocate each tree to a place of its choice. This oak picked this quiet hammock and has waited for a sympathetic ear to stroll by on the sandy yellow path.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Welcome to those following the blog trail of the Festival of the Trees. I will be posting several tree related photos and writings this month, so please stop back!

What better way to begin than with this massive oak located in Safety Harbor, FL

and a poem about the small oak in my own yard.

Advice to Parents

I have the tree everyone on my street hates.
The same tree the builder planted in every yard,
but mine is wild and gangly, a shock of twigs
and branches, with acorns that dangle freely.
The problem is that my tree resides in an area
that seeks conformity, where every plant must
be pruned and trimmed. Branches must be high,
so folks who don’t watch where they’re walking
won’t get poked in the forehead or eye. My tree is not
a pretty tree with its thrust and parry beyond boundaries
of acceptability. It gropes into spaces that interfere
with UPS or FEDEX trucks with drivers in conforming
uniforms delivering conforming packages to tan homes.
My tree dares to poke leaves into spaces which defy
the sheer madness of conformity. Its gathering of Spanish
and ball moss has choked the life out of smaller branches,
in a place where death is not allowed. If my tree could talk
it would not be in a shameful whisper. Nor would it bore us
in some cloned monotone.  It would shout and scream:
“Look at me! With my gnarly bark and scraggly tentacles,
my unkempt beard. Gaze upon the glory of my wildness.”