Close Encounter with 

a Wayward Tree

Cliff Williams

I spent Monday and Tuesday, May 13 and 14, 2024, camping at Starved Rock State Park in northern Illinois. During the day on Monday and Tuesday, I hiked on the trails there, visited canyons, gazed at the Illinois River, and thought about what to do with the rest of my life.

Then this:

On Wednesday morning at a quarter to six, I am thinking of getting up. I hear a loud crack. Another one. I instinctively cover my head.

The tree falls onto my tent. I am pinned in the tent from the waist down.

I cannot reach the zipper and could not get out even if I could.

I reach for my whistle, which I carry on my key chain, and whistle SOS a bunch of times. I yell "Help!" Repeat the sequence.

The neighbors in a camper-trailer across the roadway do not hear the whistle because the birds are chirping, but they do hear me yell.

They come out in their pajamas and get enough branches off the tent for me to get out.

The whole tree had fallen, broken at its base. I go look at the base. The inside of the tree is rotted out, almost empty.

An ambulance comes. I wave my arms and do a jig to show that I am unhurt.

The fly on my tent is ripped. The driver side door handle on my car is broken.

I meet a lot of nice people. Then I eat breakfast at the picnic table at the campsite. Later I walk along the Illinois River.

Despite this unexpected event, it was a good day.

Still in the tent

After I dragged the tent out from under 

the tree

The rotted inner core at the base of the tree

Thanks to Linda and Louis Bolf, who rescued me

The two pictures of the tent with me in it were taken by Linda Bolf.

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