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Study: Alzheimer’s patients benefit from eye surgery

in Contributors/Dr. Mark Siegel, MD FAAO/Health by

By Dr. Mark S. Siegel

Researchers at Tenon Hospital in Paris have found that patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease whose vision improved after cataract surgery also showed improvement in cognitive ability, mood, sleep patterns and other behaviors.

This is the first study to specifically assess whether cataract surgery could benefit Alzheimer’s patients, although earlier research had shown that poor vision is related to impaired mood and thinking skills in older people and that cataract surgery could improve their quality of life. 

Thirty-eight patients, average age 85 and all exhibiting mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, completed the study. 

All participants had debilitating cataract in at least one eye and were appropriately treated with standard cataract surgery and implantation of intraocular lenses, which replace the eyes’ natural lenses in order to provide vision correction. 

After surgery, distance and near vision improved dramatically in all but one of the Alzheimer’s patients.

A neuropsychologist assessed the Alzheimer’s patients for mood and depression, behavior, ability to function independently and cognitive abilities at one month before and three months after cataract surgery. 

Cognitive status, the ability to perceive, understand and respond appropriately to one’s surroundings, improved in 25 percent of patients. Depression was relieved in many of them, and the level of improvement was similar to what commonly occurs after cataract surgery in elderly people who do not have dementia. 

No changes were found in patients’ level of autonomy, that is, their ability to function independently.

Sleep patterns improved and nighttime behavior problems decreased in most study patients. 

Other studies have shown that when cataracts are removed, levels of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin become normalized. Dr. Girard notes that this may have been a key factor in the Alzheimer’s patients’ improved sleep patterns.

Since removing cataracts can improve the ability of patients with Alzheimer’s disease to function, improve their mood, cognition and sleep patterns, then this is another means to help those we love with this debilitating disease.

Dr. Mark S. Siegel is the medical director at Sea Island Ophthalmology on Ribaut Road in Beaufort. 

Visit www.seaislandophthalmology.com for more information.

The pickle: Picking up after litterbug Hurricane Matthew

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By Lee Scott

As I was hanging off my dock the other day a wild man came running towards me screaming, “STOP! Do not pick up that wood!” 

I proceeded to lasso the end of the broken pole and secured it to the side of the dock.  

The man yelling was my spouse. 

I thought he had already gone to the hardware store, but he must have forgotten something because there he was flailing his arms at me to stop. 

We have gotten this routine down pretty well. He leaves the house and I go out to the dock and see what piece of floating dock debris I can fish out of the water. 

He has estimated that since Hurricane Matthew, I have pulled out enough wood to build an entire dock. “I cannot help it!” I say to him. “It is an obsession.” 

I hate to see this junk floating in the water. His argument back to me is that he is the one who has to haul it to the dump all the time. Which is not true, because a lot of times, I just do it myself so we do not have to have this same conversation. 

I am on a personal crusade.  

The debris is floating down from islands all over the Lowcountry. The tides snatch it from the shores and send it out to the surrounding waterways. It makes me nervous to see boats flying up and down the creek dodging the wreckage. 

When a neighbor pointed out to me that it was the boat owner’s responsibility if he hit something. I responded, “That is not the point. If there are volunteers picking up litter along our highways, why can’t boaters and waterfront property owners help to pick up the debris in our waterways?”   

On this particular day, the piece I was pulling up was too big for me.  

“What would you have done if I had not been here?” my spouse asked.  

“I would have had to wait for you,” I said, knowing, in the back of my mind, that he always helps me when I need him. 

He shook his head as we both dragged the broken piling out of the water. 

In the meantime, I just wait for another opportunity when he is leaving the house and remember to say to him casually, “Honey, just leave the truck for me today.”

Lady’s Island is Beaufort’s riddle

in Bill Rauch/Contributors/Voices by

By Bill Rauch

Lady’s Island was back in the news last week with 67 parcels there annexed into Beaufort and a big planning charrette at the elementary school that was organized by The Sea Island Corridor Coalition.

First, the big meeting. 

The city is way behind on reaching out to the residents of Lady’s Island. The meeting was basically the residents taking matters into their own hands. And, yes, of course the Coastal Conservation League sees in the void an opportunity to make some new friends and get in some contributions. Thus the snacks and crayons.

There was no harm done there except having attracted hundreds to their meeting, the organizers have gotten cocky and now think they may be able to go it alone without the city or the county.  That’s naive. 

To get what they want and for it to stick they’ll need to work with both governments, but especially the city whose responsibility it is under the Northern Beaufort County Regional Plan to manage the growth on Lady’s Island.

But the city has to be willing to do its part. And, in all candor, it appears to date it has not been. 

Why? Because the city has a problem. It wants the tax revenues from Lady’s Island, but it doesn’t want to incur the cost of delivering the services.

City Council has so underfunded its police department, for example, that the Beaufort PD isn’t able to answer most of the calls from the in-city parcels on Lady’s Island. The Beaufort police count on the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office for that.

Same with fire. Lady’s Island-St. Helena is carrying the load, although by intergovernmental agreement they are compensated by the city for doing so. 

And, of course, then there’s planning.

It’s past time to get real on Harris Teeter. No reasonable person can actually believe most of the shoppers who will shop at a Harris Teeter in the old Publix location will be pedestrians. The city needs the revenues, the chain wants to be in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood wants the store. It is time to end the stand-off. It’s OK for the parking lot to be on the Sea Island Parkway side like it was with Publix.

As suggested, most of the shoppers on Lady’s Island use automobiles to transport the goods they buy. Consultants can suggest more people should ride bicycles. Good. Maybe they will. It’s clearly healthy, except when you have to cross one of those five-lane roads. 

But more and more people want to live on Lady’s Island. That means there are more and more shoppers, and unless things change dramatically, there will thusly be more and more automobiles. 

Getting back to the meeting, so where’s the area traffic plan, including the intermodal part? Mayor Billy Keyserling said if he’d thought of it, he could have gotten for the city an integrated traffic plan for the big Publix intersection. But he didn’t. And the city doesn’t have one. 

The city’s transportation plan for Lady’s Island is characteristically “What can we get the county and SCDOT to do?”

No wonder the mayor kept his head down and his hands in his pockets at the big meeting.

It’s kind of like the embarrassing boats that slipped their anchors in Hurricane Matthew.

The mayor says he called a meeting of OCRM, DNR and DOT to try to get to the bottom of whose responsibility it is to get those boats off the Lady’s Island causeway to be either sold or scrapped. But, surprise, the state agencies each said cleaning up Beaufort’s waterfront is not their responsibility, nor is the project in any of their respective budgets.

Obviously the mayor thinks the city’s in the same boat: no responsibility, no money. So the junkyard continues. 

To be fair and not unduly critical, I applaud the mayor and council for the 67 annexations.   “Annexation” used to be a bad word with this group. Maybe with the added revenues from the new parcels the city will feel it has reached the critical mass on Lady’s Island such that it can begin delivering there the urban services that are implicit with the jurisdictional change.

Budget season approaches. Take note Lady’s Islanders. Take note Sea Island Corridor Coalition. It is there — and only there — that the true tale will be told. 

Bill Rauch was the mayor of Beaufort from 1999-2008. Email Bill at TheRauchReport@gmail.com.

Deer, squirrels of Lowcountry are messing with us

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

A friend of mine named Cindy recently sent out an e-mail to a group of neighbors. It read “Met a deer last night and the deer won. Any recommendations for quick car surgery?” 

I had to laugh, although hitting a deer is not a laughing matter, because her e-mail struck a chord with me.  

How many deer have I almost hit, or have almost collided into me in the past three years?  

And it is not just the deer pursuing me. My true nemeses are the squirrels. I call them the Kamikaze Squirrels of the Lowcountry. 

These squirrels play “chicken” in the road with other squirrels. I slow down when they are crossing the road, only to see them turn around again in front of my car, leaping across to the opposite side of the road. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I screamed yesterday as I swerved to avoid a squirrel while trying not to hit a tree. 

They are just as bad when I am driving my golf cart. There I am, just enjoying a beautiful day, when one of them will run in front of me. This is followed by chortling as the squirrels do high fives on the curb watching me slam on my brakes.  

I told my spouse that I am going to start putting pictures of squirrels on the side of my golf cart with a large X through the picture, like the fighter pilots would do on their planes. Maybe the squirrels would get nervous if they thought I was running over their playmates.  

My true intent is not to hurt them. I try my best to avoid them regardless of their games. I have looked for gadgets that emit electronic signals from both my car and golf cart to alert the little guys a motorized vehicle is close.  

Would that help keep them out of my way? I do not think so. The gadgets would not work because the squirrels are having too much fun watching cars abruptly swerve to avoid hitting them.  

And after a recent bicycle ride where one of them almost took me down, I think they are going to keep it up. 

So, Cindy, sorry about the “deer meeting” you had the other day. But please watch out for the squirrels. They can be just as hazardous.

The Saga of Southside Park

in Bill Rauch/Contributors/Voices by

By Bill Rauch

This is a story of what happens when government changes its priorities. In the same breath let me hasten to add government should change its priorities. Priority-changing is the relentless reinventing that is the core strength of democracy.  

Sometimes, however, when governments change direction there are implications. This is a story about one such implication.

Previous Beaufort City Councils have consistently seen enhancing the city’s parks as a priority. Mayor Angus Fordham’s city council, for example in the 1960s, filled in what we know now as “The Marina Parking Lot,” fashioned a bandshell from a surplused quonset hut, called the new area “Freedom Mall,” and invited the public downtown for concerts. Here was where The Water Festival was begun.

Henry Chambers, in the 1970s, as we all know because the park is named for him, pushed through his signature accomplishment: the Waterfront Park that extended Freedom Mall to the Woods Bridge.

When David Taub was mayor in the 1990s, council began the long process of adding Southside Park to the city’s list of parks.

How was that done? I was there and I know firsthand.

David Taub and City Manager John McDonough had worked very hard negotiating a deal with The Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority (BJWSA) to sell at a fair price the city’s water and sewer works to them. The deal required the voters’ approval which was to be sought on the May 1999 ballot.  Also on that ballot were expected to be four well-known Beaufortonians — Henry Chambers, Billy Keyserling, Donnie Beer and myself — running to replace Taub as mayor since he had announced he would not seek reelection.

I was mayor pro tem at the time, and watching the Beaufort-Jasper deal go down I wondered whether the voters would vote for it, as I believed they should. Thinking about that, I saw a win-win. It would be an added incentive for the voters — especially for the all-important Mossy Oaks voters — to vote “yes” if they knew the site of the city’s stinky old Southside Boulevard sewage treatment plant would one day be turned into a neighborhood park.

I asked my campaign lawyer, now-State Senator Tom Davis, how that might be done and he suggested council vote to place a springing covenant on the land’s deed that would say “if and when the land is no longer needed for a sewage treatment plant, its ownership will revert to the city where it can only be used by the city for a neighborhood park.” Davis drafted up the covenant and council passed it unanimously several months before the election.

I ran on — among other issues — the BJWSA deal, and it was passed by the voters. The same voters the same day also elected me their mayor in a three-way race with Chambers and Beer (Keyserling had dropped out). And there the matter sat for a decade while the Water Authority built its Shell Point Plant, put the pieces into place to pump all the city’s sewage out to that plant, and then finally in about 2009 BJWSA surplused the Southside plant.

That’s when things got interesting.

At the time of the reversion, Tom Davis was representing the city on the BJWSA board. Davis favored the park, and there was a rumor that the park should be named for him. Unfortunately however by then the park’s name was mud.

After another unsuccessful run in 2004 — Billy Keyserling was by 2009 mayor and he was determined nothing good would come of the Southside Park deal. First he proposed breaking the perimeter of the park into lots and selling them one-by-one with the interior area serving as a kind of private park for the new owners of the perimeter parcels. But that proposal ran afoul of the springing covenant which had by then “sprung” by virtue of the land having reverted to the city. Next, Mayor Keyserling proposed planting the park’s open spaces in soybeans. But he couldn’t make that proposal fly either. Finally, frustrated, the city disbanded the park’s advisory committee, presumably because council didn’t want to hear any more requests for funding from them. And there the hapless park has sat, lucky to get mowed.

Last year, quelling an uproar from dog-owners who said they had waited too long for their promised park, the city put up some fences and called it a dog park. It is very popular. But more than a decade after it was first proposed, the perimeter trail is yet to be built. The bandstand and the playground are still just glints in the eye as well.  Building a bandstand, building a playground and even building a perimeter path are neither complicated nor expensive projects, if there’s a will to do them.

But there clearly is no will.

This city council’s announced priority is instead jobs: jobs for the children of the city’s residents. First they purchased and supported the Commerce Park. Then they purchased and are supporting the office building at Carteret and North streets where they are building a business incubator for high-tech companies.

I — and Mossy Oaks’ residents — hope these ambitious programs begin to work soon and bring in some tax revenues, because soon the grass at Southside will need mowing again. 

Bill Rauch was the mayor of Beaufort from 1999-2008. Email Bill at TheRauchReport@gmail.com.

The sailboat that sailed on warm winds now abandoned

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By Lee Scott

There is a sad little boat sitting on the shore along Sea Island Parkway. The name of the boat is Sirocco and she has been there since the morning of Oct. 8, 2016.

That is when Hurricane Matthew pushed the waters of the Beaufort River and with it Sirocco to the shore. She sits there along with five other sailboats and a power boat named Wave Dancer. Although two of the boats are hidden by trees, if you look closely you can see their masts sticking up in the reeds.

The name Sirocco fascinated me, and when I researched it I discovered it means “warm wind.” This was a name given to the wind blowing from the Libyan desert over to Italy.  

As a sailor, myself, I can appreciate the name Sirocco. It conjures up beautiful days on the water with the sails pulled in and a nice warm 10-15 knot breeze.

I think that is why it is so sad to see her aground. What happened to the owner? What happened to someone who so loved to go sailing that he would name her Sirocco and then abandon her? 

This is evidently a common problem along the coastal waters. People who can no longer afford their boats abandon them in creeks and rivers. Sometimes, an owner dies and the family does not know where the boat is located. 

So, what happened to the sailor who owned Sirocco?  Did his insurance lapse and he could not afford to remove her after the storm? Or had she already been abandoned? If so, why?  

Even sitting on the bank, it appears there may be some salvageable items on the boat. There are numerous companies in the sailboat salvage business. They make money by salvaging the parts of these sore sights, which potentially could become environmental hazards.  

Did any of the seven boat owners know there were other avenues to pursue rather than just anchor them off Lady’s Island?

Regardless of the reasons, when I pass Sirocco a part of me wants to get out of my car and climb aboard. I want to go below and pull out her sailing log to see where she has been. I am sorry that the warm winds of South Carolina have brought you to this place, Sirocco, but you need to find a new home now.

Abandoned boats have an orange sign posted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources asking for information regarding the owners of the vessels. The phone number is 800-922-5431.
Abandoned boats have an orange sign posted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources asking for information regarding the owners of the vessels. The phone number is 800-922-5431.

Church is refuge from hate, world’s troubles

in Cherimie Crane/Contributors/Voices by

By Cherimie Crane Weatherford

The floors creaked in harmonious chorus, the sun filtered through stained glass, creating rainbows against the shellacked pews as the scent of vanilla and baby powder precluded each warm hug by women who had seen it all. 

We were never forced to attend, never as punishment, only the assurance of good music, pocket peppermint and every casserole imaginable during dinner on the grounds. 

The hymn “Consider the Lillies” was a customary opening, and to this day I remember every single word. 

There is only one thing that Mississippi has more of than freckled faces: churches. Big churches, small churches, country churches, open field churches and churches in the middle of a living room floor if necessary. There is no denying it is a part of who I am, the good, the bad and the vocal. 

Occasionally the preacher would get a little gloomy for my taste, but in such instances I occupied my time spotting the open-eyed nappers, shoe tappers and the mommas wielding concrete stares at spirited youth.

Religion is something that both fascinated and terrified my young mind. Several concepts simply twisted my logical bone into a pretzel while the genuine care so freely given compared only to the warmth of my grandmother’s lap. 

I believed there was a God from the start, there was simply no other explanation for velvety feeling rye grass or my grandmother’s grits. 

Church was community, family, social center and as familiar as my own home. 

Regardless of the chaos of the economy or the atmosphere of a world sick with hate, church was predictable as summer heat. 

Not once can I recall exclusion of any kind other than Mrs. Foster’s pew. We all knew better than to sit in her well-worn location. Church was for all and all was church. It seemed quite simple. 

I have no memory of being discouraged from love but being told consistently to love thy neighbor. Of course living in rural Mississippi,  that was fairly easy as your neighbor was either your grandmother or a dairy cow. 

Church was as much what you did as who you were. For me, it was comforting. The soothing hymns, the sweet wrinkled hands handing me candy and belief that praying would help seemed to ease my often anxious little mind and calm my often restless little body. 

Religion is personal. It was personal then and it is personal now. 

I carry that little church with me everywhere I go. It was the most kind, most accepting and most joyful place I can remember. 

The world is a much more confusing place now as I am often confused by the rules of engagement. 

Thankfully that little white church, with the shiny pews and creaking floors, gave me a foundation of which to build my own beliefs, my own thoughts and my ability to decipher casseroles with ease. 

Although I don’t recall every sermon or fully agree with every sentiment, I do consider the lilies and I do love thy neighbor. 

Cherimie Crane Weatherford, owner of SugarBelle boutique, real estate broker and observer of all things momentous and mundane, lives on Lady’s Island with her golfing husband, dancing toddler and lounging dogs.

The Grannies of I-95: A new type of driver hits the road

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By Lee Scott

There is an exclusive club I have joined recently. I call it the “Grannies of I-95.”

You might have seen one of us. We go up and down major highways with gifts and food loaded in the back of our cars, headed to our grandchildren’s ballet recitals, birthday parties and graduations.

The Grannies of I-95 are much different from grandmothers of the past. My two grandmothers both had blue white hair and never went anywhere without my grandfathers. However, many of the grandmothers today have their red or blonde hairdos and have no problem leaving grandpa at home.

The grandmothers are active in golf and tennis and are involved in community projects.

Many of the Grannies have unique names like Nonna, or Mimi, Gigi or Nina and, after hearing about an upcoming sports event or piano recital, pack up the car and take off.

Overall, we are a very organized group. We place healthy snacks in our insulated bags; foods like carrots, granola bars and chocolate. (Did I say healthy?) We carry water bottles and iced tea in our little coolers along with homemade cookies for
the grandchildren.

There are other necessities we load in our cars. The GPS, an EZ Pass, audio books, and of course, the cell phone with the car adapter charger. The Grannies like to be prepared.

We normally stop at our favorite barista’s for the first cup of coffee of the long drive. And because we have done the trip so many times we know all the rest stops. “How dare Virginia tear down their rest facilities and put in porta-potties!” we collectively complained to one another recently.

We have also had to learn the highway exits where we can pick up fast food, always keeping in mind the “not open on Sunday” rule of our favorite Chick-fil-A.

For us, the drive back home tends to be a bit less hectic. Many of us stay in hotels on the return drive just to relax.

The fast pace environment of the city along with the active lifestyles of young grandchildren are both exhilarating and exhausting.

It is there in the hotels where I have found myself smiling at other “Grannies of I-95” as we head up to our hotel rooms with our bottles of white wine ready for a long peaceful night sleep.

After all, we are grannies.

Developers propose new homes IN the fairways

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By Bill Rauch

Regular readers of this column may recall an analysis that appeared here in September 2016 showing that of the seven successful Beaufort County School District and countywide capital improvements referenda totaling about three-quarters of a billion dollars over the past 20 years, 60 percent of the money has gone to schools and roads in and around Bluffton.

Simply — and generously — stated, the Beaufort County Council didn’t adequately anticipate the public costs of the Sun City project when in 1991 they unanimously bought Del Webb’s argument that all the costs of the new city that would be built on the outskirts of Bluffton would be contained within the development.

We have been paying and paying ever since, and Bluffton has stayed pretty quiet. Why shouldn’t it?

The town of Bluffton had nothing formally to do with the 1991 Del Webb vote. However, let’s not forget most of the subsequent Del Webb spin-off development was permitted by Bluffton, which has further contributed to the public costs.

Interestingly, now things appear to be changing.

Bluffton is being driven by traffic jams and a new scarcity of parking to the tipping point. Oh yes, and by rising taxes too. The “rising tide,” it turned out, didn’t “float all boats.” It just floated the boats of the development community. And flashy speedboats they are.

As this column goes to press, Bluffton’s leaders are passing slow growth petitions.

The big paper companies’ timber tracts are all gone from Beaufort County now, so where will the new houses go?

No, not on the fairways. That was yesterday.

The new fashion is laying them up IN the fairways.

Golf courses along U.S. 278 are places into which millions of dollars have been invested within our recent memories for planning, clearing, filling out fairways and greens, sculpting out bunkers, building clubhouses and caddy shacks, making exotic grasses and shrubbery grow more beautifully and more.

But no matter. That was yesterday.

Take the case of the Hilton Head National Golf Club. Hilton Head National’s golf course was designed in 1988 by the great Gary Player and the new course was opened in 1990.

Now the property’s owner, Scratch Golf LLC, has asked Beaufort County to rezone the property from rural to a mix of commercial and residential neighborhood and hamlet designations under the county’s new CDC development code.

Where there are fairways, greens and bunkers, the owners seek now the government’s blessing to put 300 homes, 300 apartment units, 400,000 square feet of new retail space, a 500-room hotel, a 100,000-square-foot convention center, a 400-bed assisted living facility, a 1,500-seat performing arts center and a water park that would be visible from U.S. 278.

The new development will require two new schools be built, a flyover of U.S. 278 be constructed, and a new entrance fashioned that necessitates that at least one Heritage Lakes house be demolished, according to Tabor Vaux, who represents Bluffton on the Beaufort County Council.

Here’s the wrinkle. Hilton Head National isn’t contiguous to the town of Bluffton so it cannot be annexed into the town, and it is just outside Tabor Vaux’s councilmanic district. It is in Rick Caporale’s. But the traffic it will cause will be in Bluffton. So Vaux is asking who will pay.

Growth outside the town of Bluffton has been slow since 2008, and the county was caught a little flat-footed by Scratch Golf LLC’s proposal.

On Dec. 8, 2016, the county’s Planning Commission passed the rezoning 5-3 and sent the matter to the county council’s Nãtural Resources Committee, which rubber-stamped the rezoning and passed it along to the full Beaufort County Council.

That’s when reality began to set in.

On Jan. 9, the Beaufort County Council voted narrowly to table the rezoning until a development agreement can be negotiated.

Now a committee of county council members, chaired by Vaux, has been empanelled to formulate the agreement.

“This is a major, major project that is going to require tons of infrastructure. Who’s going to pay for that?” Vaux asks.

It’s a good question and one that could not be coming from a more appropriate corner.

Bill Rauch was the mayor of Beaufort from 1999-2008. Email Bill at TheRauchReport@gmail.com.

A leaning tree raises concerns

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By Lee Scott

There are two trees in my front yard that appear to be leaning. I have been studying them since Hurricane Matthew.

Truthfully, I cannot verify they were leaning prior to that time, but they are leaning now.

My spouse suggested it was my imagination and not to worry about the trees. However, a recent “alert” from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office got me concerned.

The alert cautioned citizens about falling trees and limbs due to heavy rain and high winds. Many trees have been weakened by the hurricane.

Well, that was my call to action. I went out and looked at the two trees more carefully. They looked like they were leaning to me. It was time to research the subject.

The experts online suggest you answer two questions. Are there exposed roots? Can you see cracked soil?

“Mmmm, not really,” I answered. But I was determined to go a step further.

I set up my camera on my tripod at the end of the driveway and took a picture of the larger tree. Two weeks later I took another picture at the same distance and at the same time of the day. I then compared the two photos. It was my intention to ascertain if the angle of the tree to the ground had changed.

As it turned out, two weeks was not enough, there was no discernable difference in the pictures.

The following week, I took another picture and I took my findings into my spouse.

“Look”, I exclaimed, “there appears to be a difference in the angle of the tree. This is the time to do something!”

He shook his head and explained that he really was not concerned by the tree.

“First,” he said, “we never walk on that side of the yard, so if it falls, it is not going to hurt us or the house. Second, we have pictures of the house when we first bought it three years ago, and that tree looks the same today as it did then. Third, why should we pay for someone to take down a tree when Mother Nature might take it down for free?”

Good points.

I took my pictures, my camera and my tripod back to my office while mumbling, “You could have told me all that in the first place.”

“No,” he said, “it was too much fun watching you.”

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