The Old Man and the Trees

By Justin Henney
Reader Contributor

Ten years ago my mom and dad followed my wife and me and moved to Sandpoint. Our first daughter was born that June of 2005 and we were thrilled with our baby girl and to have my parents so close. It was not long before my parents bought a place out in the woods near us on five acres. The back four of their five acre parcel is thick with Blue Spruce trees, my dad’s favorite.

By the time Adeline was two, my dad had mowed a path through the tall grass and pine trees and lined it with stuffed animal characters from “Winnie the Pooh” and “The Wizard of Oz.” For several years it was a fall tradition to have friends and their children join our family and follow the brown grass path in lieu of The Yellow Brick Road.

Tim Henney, 84, with his grandchildren outside the hand built teepee. Photo courtesy Justin Henney.

Tim Henney, 84, with his grandchildren outside the hand built teepee. Photo courtesy Justin Henney.

My dad’s dedication to keeping the child alive in himself and those around him is what has stuck with me lately. The man turned 84 years old this summer and still hand saws enough fire wood in Autumn to last him and his “1957 bride” throughout the winter. He also built a tree house for my daughters in the woods last year which blows away the one he built for me back in 1969! (and it was really cool).

It is actually two tree forts with a suspended bridge linking the two, about 6 feet off the ground. One of my parents’ dogs loves these forts as much as my daughters (we have two now!) and regularly accompanies them up in the forts and across the bridge.

I give my dad a hard time almost every time I see him for being a self-promoter and continuing to live in his past accomplishments in corporate America. It is easy for me to do this because the grief is given in jest. But it is still criticism.

What I don’t say is how proud I am of my old man and how much he has done for my daughters by being so much fun and putting so much effort into them with his efforts in the woods. His latest accomplishment in the woods is a 15 foot high tee pee he built last summer with a ladder and saw. He also wrapped it in burlap. It has a fire pit in the center and wooden benches inside and has already provided several memorable experiences with family and friends around the camp fire.

My dad is getting out of his recliner chair slower these days, but once he’s out, this 84 year old is full of life, pep and optimism. And he’s pretty handy with a saw.

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