I saw a red cedar tree growing out of an old, old stump at Long Timber. There must be a story this mother tree stump could tell me, I thought to myself.
I needed to ask the right questions, maybe I’d find some answers. I took a picture; the cedar tree was just beginning to have its new spring leaves. Everyone talks in hushed tones about the Australian Red Cedar trees (Toona ciliata), they are rare and beautiful. They number among the few deciduous trees in Australia losing their leaves in the winter. When the European settlers came, they were the first to be cut. The timber was and still is prized for its rich red colour. It was cut and sent back to England, as ballast in the sailing ships and made into beautiful furniture there.
I wondered was the stump a cedar tree also, was it a mother tree and this young tree related to it. I showed the picture to Wal, asking, “What is the stump the cedar tree is growing out of?”
“It’s a tallowwood tree. A very hard tree, the stump has been there since the 1930s. It takes a long time to rot down.”
As I walked by the tree again I mulled it over. Wal had said his entire house was built from a single tallowwood tree. I came back and asked, “Do you know which tallowwood tree the house was built from?”
Wal answered, “I was visiting old Jack. He was 100 years old, and couldn’t hear anything anymore, but his niece could talk to him. His niece said, ‘This is Wal, the timber cutter’s son.’
Jack said, ‘Oh I remember when we built his house from a single tallowwood tree. That was some tree. We cut it low, waist high with an ax and snug the log up the hill. There was no way the bullocks could just haul that log up that steep hill.”
“What do you mean snug the log?” I asked.
“That’s the past tense, of snig, you’ve never heard of snigging a log?”
“No I haven’t.” I asked totally confused.
“That’s when you attach a pulley to tree trunk and use a steel cable to help the bullocks. That way the bullocks can pull downhill and the log goes up hill.”
Wal took me out to the shed and showed me a pulley used to snig a log:
“How do you know, that’s the tree?”
“It’s the only stump that is waist high and was cut with an axe. Jack said it was cut on that ridge”
I tried to picture a bullock team, probably 18 bullocks pulling a single log up the small opening where that tree was growing. No wonder Jack would remember it 80 years later. The path through the trees is still there:
“The tree was probably 400-500 years old. It had a girth of 24 feet, and contained at least 100 feet of useable timber,” Wal said.
“It doesn’t look that big now.” I said
“I sawed half of it off and kicked it over because it was keeping the cedar tree from growing, so you don’t see all of it now.”
The house has the original weatherboards from that tree, the only change is new concrete stumps supporting the original frame. The moisture and sun eventually caused the stumps to rot.
Inside the floor was recently uncovered and polished to reveal the splendour of the original tallowwood.
VJ lining boards on the walls are from a hoop pine also grown on the property.
The house is a testament to the hard work and the history of the family that built it in 1938. It is a nonfiction writers to dream to stay in a house surrounded by nature and history.