Axeman, Spare that Tree! — A Little Fable for Big People — In Memoriam National Film Unit
Axeman, Spare that Tree!
A Little Fable for Big People
In Memoriam National Film Unit
. . . and so, dear children, he seized his trusty old axe, and with a loud whoop of the old backwoodsman's battle cry of "economy! economy!" (which to be translated means "Just you watch these branches fall") he sprang nimbly up the political tree.
One, two! One, two! And through and through his awful axe went snickersnee. Branches flew in all directions; the axe whirled round his head in a shining circle—you couldn't help admiring the speed and precision with which he aimed his strokes—the branch there had grown topheavy, he thought. . . snick! That one there he didn't like the look of . . . slice! And yet if he wished to leave one untouched, not an error was made. Some were Sliced through; some shorn so close that only, their stumps showed. And all the time while he carved away, the woods rang with the cheerful cry of "economy . . . economy."
In vain did some of the little inhabitants of the branches protest, though they squeaked as loudly as they could. One sad tui fluttered off muttering dolefully: "'Education' . . . £6000 . . ." in a weepy voice: others had barely time to spring for safety to another branch as their own curved from under them and went crashing to the ground. Though they squeaked and shouted, their voices were drowned in the cheerful cry of "economy . . . economy. .
He hacked and he hewed and the branches crashed away. He had a job to do, for he knew, being an old backwoodsman, that no tree can exist when there is too much foliage for the roots to supply food to: so he hacked and hewed and the branches were pruned.
Soon he had finished, children, and then he stuck his trusty axe in his belt and clambered down to mop his brow and look at the result.
There was hardly a branch untouched . . . except a few which he spared because he had always felt an affection for their little inhabitants. And those birds at least rewarded him by singing a thankful song: "fertiliser! subsidy! subsidizer! fertility!" they chirped, and this made him happy. Then he took a pile of the branches he had cut, threw them over his shoulder and went off cheerfully to make some Boards out of them.
When he had made the Boards, he came back to look at the tree and listen to the thankful song of the birds.
But what had happened? The tree was looking very sick, and indeed even the branches he had left were drooping, and the cry of the birds remaining sounded very shrill in the dying leaves. He hurried away to find a tree-doctor (that's a short way of saying "silviculturist"! to cure the tree. He didn't think for a moment, children, that it could have had anything to do with what he'd been up to.
When the tree-doctor came, he took one look at the tree and sadly shook his head. "Did you," he said, "prune this tree?" And the axeman 'said "Yes" in a surprised voice, because he couldn't see that this had anything to do with it. But the tree-doctor shook his head again sadly and said, "You know, the tree doesn't get all—or even most—of its supply from its roots. What is really important to a healthy tree is what it gets from parts which would appear useless to you, by the look of things. The leaves . . ." he was saying, as the axeman, mad as anything, whipped his trusty axe from his belt, gave a cheerful (if perhaps a little forced) whoop of the old backwoodsman's battlecry of "economy ... economy" and severing the tree-doctor's head from his shoulders, started off up the tree again to practice some more.