Post Title:  My Dad:  The Tree Man.

Father’s Day Tribute to My Dad, The Tree Man.

I am one of about twenty volunteers who make up VisionAware, an outreach team now housed on the website of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). Our focus is to guide others who experience sight and / or hearing loss. We are all blind, to varying degrees, from legally to completely blind. A few deal with dual disabilities, and are deaf blind.

Some members work in occupations that directly help the blind, such as rehabilitation or orientation and mobility instructors. Others, like me, simply channel what they’ve learned through their experiences to problem-solve, advise and encourage others who seek out help. We are a diverse cultural group from many backgrounds that come from across the United States, and one foreign country – Australia. Being part of such a talented, positive, experienced and unselfish team greatly encourages me as well. We learn from each other and challenge ourselves and others to live the best lives we can.

The “peer advisors,” as we are called, may collaborate on a topic, such as transportation, or may choose to write individually.

One of my favorite topics to share my thoughts on are holidays. When the opportunity came to write about Father’s Day, I volunteered. A few other peers chose poetry as their medium. But I decided to share some memories in an article about how my dad shaped my childhood and teenage years, and ultimately, how he served as a role model in helping me to cope positively with vision loss.

Click to link to my Father’s Day article HERE, or read the article below.

You can find my colleagues’ Father Day poetry by Clicking HERE.

Enjoy!


My earliest recollection of my dad was hearing the sound of a chainsaw outside my bedroom window. He worked as a lineman for our town electric company and helped run the power plant. But his real passion? Cutting down trees. In Northwest Pennsylvania, “tree felling” has always served as a lucrative profession.

Dad started out with one GMC dump truck. He employed his friends and even their relatives. We kids started young. We did the easy things, raking and loading cut branches onto the back of the truck. Dad called us ‘stick pickers.’ At the end of the work day, he let us bounce up and down on the brush to settle it. We had a blast poking each other with spindly limbs and no one ever fell through the thick debris. On the ride to dump it, we sat on the branches to hold them down.  Sometimes I laid down and stared at the sky as the truck rolled through several small towns before stopping. I usually wore long sleeves to avoid being scratched. If we had pine branches, my clothes would be covered with sap. Bur I didn’t mind. The sharp, sweet scent refreshed me. Somehow seeing the sky and clouds from atop of the branches lent itself to dreaming. I didn’t mind the bumpy ride at all. When we finally arrived, we climbed down and cheered as Dad pulled the lever and the brush slid over the side of the bank.

As times changed, Dad built a “box” onto the truck bed to contain the debris. Later, he added a chipper to his equipment. I still remember the day we started using it. He pushed the button and it roared to life. I fed the cut branches into it, a little at a time, leafy-end first. Dad reminded me to let go of the branches. It could pull me in, too, if I wasn’t careful! I had the reputation of being accident-prone.

I eventually started gassing up and adding oil to the chainsaws, and also brought pole trimmers and ropes to the tree fellers. But even in high school, I never ran a chainsaw. I tried to start one up once, but luckily, Dad saw the jerky way the blade moved up and said, “Whoa, we’ll leave the chainsaws to the others. If you get hurt, your mom will shoot me.”

By the early ‘70s, Dad left his other jobs and added on a fleet of trucks and more equipment, such as a log splitter we dubbed Big Yellow, and a stump remover. With the log splitter, we could make firewood. I liked it when Dad and I worked together. He split the wood and I stacked it into racks to age. In the fall, Dad sold the firewood.

When I was in fifth grade. Dad and I drove to where we kept the splitter, and started it up. The machine was too loud to talk over so we worked in silence. When we took a break, I mentioned how my Social Studies teacher had smacked my hand with a ruler.

Dad looked up in surprise. “What did you do?”

“Nothing.” I crossed my arms. “Not a thing.”

He looked over at me.  “What were you supposed to be doing?”

“Well, my teacher said that was exactly the point.  I should have been doing my work.”

Dad chuckled and nodded, then started up Big Yellow again. He never said anything else. His low-key attitude took the sting out of the smack. A quiet rule follower, teachers never scolded me. Mom would have, at the very least, given me a talking to.  But that wasn’t Dad’s way.  With him, I learned how to ‘look busy’ even when I wasn’t and do my best. My father taught me a lot as we worked together.

The best part of working for Dad was the camaraderie. The breaks. The storytelling. Mid-morning every day, Dad would drive up with a box of doughnuts, and coffee or soda. The chainsaws stopped and everyone gathered together. The stories would begin, how one man fell so many feet over a lake bank when trimming the trees to give the customer a lake view but, still roped in, he was remarkably, only skinned up. Another man would top that story and on it went.

We had daredevil employees that swung like monkeys, sure-footed and deeply-muscled. They had plenty of swagger. The latter is what did them in. But as I listened to their stories, some of which made my dad shake his head, I realized these men cherished my father as much as they did their jobs.

Just like he did with me in fifth grade, Dad gave them space to make mistakes and to grow in their skills. He provided supervision without smothering. He trained the men, then trusted them to do their jobs well. Dad left the job site but circled back in case this crew encountered any problems.  He encouraged, joked and smiled, then called it a day.

Whenever I see or hear a chainsaw, it takes me back to those summers shaping my childhood and teenage years. I became stronger, grew tanned, and learned the value of saving money. These summers gave me opportunities to witness Dad’s example in ways I could never have seen otherwise.

It wasn’t just me he inspired. It was everyone who encountered him. With his easygoing ways and innate leadership, he drew people. They all called him by his moniker, ‘The Tree Man.’ But he was their friend, an entrepreneur, and a contagious dreamer. Best of all, he loved his kids. He culled out our strengths but never judged us for our weaknesses.

Even though I was clumsy, during those summers I developed confidence in myself. Years later when I found out I was losing my vision due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, Dad responded just as he always had, with a half-smile and nod. “You’ll be okay. Do your best.”

You know what? I have—and I’ve done fine.

Dad gave me a balance of support and leeway to learn from my own ‘falls’ and grow.

Happy Father’s Day in Heaven, Dad! Miss you!

You have just read “My Dad: The Tree Man” by Amy L. Bovaird. © June 22, 2020. All rights reserved.

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TESTIMONIALS:

5 Stars “…I’m not vision impaired. I don’t read non-fiction for enjoyment. I am not what some might consider the target market for this book, but I can tell you that I would recommend it to my own teenagers, my husband, my teenage students, and anyone else I know as a book of bravery, encouragement, motivation, testimony, and just as a pleasure read. Don’t pass it by: You will be blessed.”–An Amazon Reader

–An Amazon Reader

5 Stars   “Living in the Power instead of the fear!”

Mobility Matters elegantly shares Amy Bovaird’s emotions and experience which anyone going through vision loss can identify with. The transformation as she overcomes her fear and the enemies voices that her loss of vision will now define who she is as a person and dictate the rest of her life, will inspire hope to each reader. Amy’s journey stepping out in faith and how the Lord’s Word gave her the strength to keep going, is a must read.

This book is not only for those going through the hallway of vision loss, but for each family member or any one who loves someone losing their vision would also benefit by reading.

Mobility Matters Stepping out in Faith has left me thinking I will now call canes power sticks!!!

Michael Benson, Founder
Visual Experience Foundation

Michael Benson, Founder, Visual Experience Foundation

4 Stars  “…As a mobility specialist myself, I found this book of great interest to me for its subject matter. I was quite amazed that Amy could get around on her own with her genetic condition, particularly at night, since individuals with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) tend to lose their night vision and are using a cane at night much sooner than Amy was using any assistive device (even a bright light). Amy maintained her positive attitude, her faith and her sense of humour. If only we all could do that in times of crisis!” –Kathryn Svendsen, Mobility Specialist, Canada

–Kathryn Svendsen

5 Stars  “Couldn’t stop reading until I finished. Very inspirational. Will definitely be looking for more by this author!” –Sharon Hannah

–Sharon Hannah

5 stars “…This book really inspired me. Amy’s outlook on life is what I would like to model in my own. Yes, going blind SUCKS but she took it to another level. She made it into an adventure and I needed to be reminded of that again. Her positive outlook on this all has really encouraged me in my current situation now. Taking the step of faith to move on forward and embrace life for what it is. I highly recommend purchasing this book! Be inspired, take a journey behind the life of someone with Usher, smile, laugh, and enjoy! –Andi Nicole

–Andi Nicole

5 Stars “As a person who lives with chronic illness, I sometimes get bogged down with books on illness that feel really heavy. This one does not. Author Amy Bovaird, who is losing her sight, writes so well about her personal experiences, I feel like I’m walking alongside her as I read. I kept coming back to the story to see what happened–was she going to let fear stop her? Would she overcome?
The lessons Amy learns through her experiences apply to any of us who fear aging, illness, new symptoms, or really anyone who needs some inspiration, and that reminder that much can be accomplished if you step out and forward–even when you cannot see beyond that first step. I definitely enjoyed this book. –Kimberly Rae, Bestselling Author of the Stolen Series

–Kimberly Rae, Your Content Goes Here

Blog post review by Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight
One of the best books I have ever read about mobility and white cane use is called Mobility Matters: Stepping out in Faith by Amy Bovard. It is funny, poignant and packs a lot of tips and useful information. You can find it by following the link below to Amy’s web page and listen to a chapter before you buy, it is wonderful.

Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight

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