There’s a part of the story that you never hear. You know the tree? The cherry tree? The one he chopped down? It wasn’t even on his property. That’s the part they never tell you.
He saw the tree. Something about the tree got under his skin. Made him itch with annoyance. So, he chopped it down. I always pictured him doing the fateful (and, to judge it by contemporary standards, illegal/nasty) in February because that’s the time of the year I think about him. President’s Day, right?
Was he pissed at his neighbor? Had there been some infraction? A slight at a party perhaps, or unintentional lapse in civility? Rumor has it that it had something to do with a blue-ribbon hog and a long rotting fence that ran the perimeter of the barn. Words were exchanged. Heated words that tipped beyond the balance towards…If he was truthful with himself, he’d have to admit, in retrospect, that this “friction” with his neighbor took up way to too much of his time. At night, listening to the crickets, he’d pick at this memory till it hardened like a scab.
And was the next event, the next salvo the chopping of the cherry tree? The President to be and the Farmer had two kids. As luck would have it there was a son and a daughter who grew fond of each other and shared long walks to school. That got longer. And later, lingering deep into the night.
One night the daughter didn’t come home. The President to be, let’s call him “George” went to the Farmer to see what’s what. Sure enough, the Farmer’s son didn’t come home either.
After two months of waiting, George chopped down the cherry tree.
And that’s the real story.