This Silence Was Not Golden

Stu, over at dVerse Poets Pub has asked us to write a poem about weather, and one of the suggestions was to write about how weather affected a point in time. This poem says very little about the weather, but what happened on that long ago day had everything to do with the weather. If it hadn’t been so hot, and the logging crews hadn’t been shut down, Billy Staub might still be with us. But then… probably not.

This Silence Was Not Golden 


I was on the porch

The old wood swing

Creaked as it gently swayed

In a hot south wind


No workin’ in the woods

On those kinda days

Fire danger and all

Worked for me


I was four beers in

Two to go

And Hank Jr. was croonin

‘Bout bein’ whiskey bent


Billy Staub’s chainsaw

Was whinin’ somewhere

Out back of the house

An angry steady sound


Dale’s old hound dog

Came up and laid at my feet

I thought to shoo him

But let him be


My leg was itchin’

Something fierce

No way to scratch it

Through the dang cast


Hank stopped singin’

A tree crashed

Then Billy’s chainsaw

Sputtered and died


The old dog raised his head, listening

Knowing, this silence was not golden

The breeze sighed; went still

Somehow I knew… Billy was gone

Billy Staub was small in stature, but tough as nails, and had a heart as big as an old-growth fir tree. He had his faults, and one of them may have been partially responsible for his death, but he was a good man and a good friend.

I left the woods after a big tree fell on me, breaking my leg so badly it required two operations, and about two years in and out of casts. Billy was killed not long after my accident, when a big tree he was felling took an unexpected turn and landed on him. He was probably high when it happened, because he usually was. When the big tree hit my leg, I saw it coming and ran like crazy trying to get out of its way; I imagine when Billy saw the big tree coming at him, he probably just grinned and looked at it with those ever-droopy eyes of his and said, “Huh… would ya look at that…”

Copyright © C. Mashburn 2012


  1. Mary said

    What a tragic end for Billy. Glad you were spared. This poem seems vaguely famiiar. I wonder if you wrote a different version of it a while back.

    • I posted it on Kellie’s Free Write Friday a couple of months ago. You commented on it then, too.
      Thanks, Mary!

  2. poemsofhateandhope said

    Firstly- fantastic sentiment albeit a terribly sad story. I love how you embedded within this poem that sense of localisation…the dialect….the accents…..the country music…made it so personal and real….and goddamn….if cutting down trees isn’t one of the scariest and most dangerous jobs ever…then I don’t know what is…..

    • It is a dangerous job; two of my friends were killed cutting down trees.
      Thanks for the awesome comment, Stu!

  3. Oh what a way to go. I hope he was high and never saw it coming. I badly broke my ankle a few years ago, broke tib and fib and have a metla plate and screws that hold it all together now and it took 6 months and 4 diff casts on and then another 3 before I could put full weight down on it. So, I can’t imagine what 2 years was like for you Charles.

    • Chances are pretty good that he was.
      Yes, it was a long two years. Had some bad experience with doctors, which was part of the reason for the lengthy recovery.
      Thanks for the great comment!

  4. Sherry Mashburn said

    Sad . . .

  5. Wow – just – wow

  6. excellent tale Charles, all the more so for being true.

  7. A sad tale of your friend ~ Enjoyed the stories you write here Charles ~

    And cutting down trees terrify me ~

    • Yes, cutting down trees is a scary thing; even for those who know what they’re doing.
      Thanks for the visit and comment!

  8. oh my goodness man…that is tragic…ack can you imagine going out by tree…dreadful…a cast in the heat as well surely stinks but i think billy got the worst…really nice capture of the moment in all the sound and detail….

    • I can’t imagine going out that way either, though I came close to doing just that.
      Thanks for the great comment!

  9. Thanks for the article Charles… I will pray for you and the family… Blessings… Bro pat.

  10. Loved this. It’s emotional, it’s raw and it’s real. What could be better?!

  11. WoW. This is one awesome write.
    It was like being there along with your spirit in the words.
    I shudder at the thought of that tree fallin’, I can see it as you
    wrote it..
    “….he probably just grinned and looked at it with those ever-droopy eyes of his and said, “Huh… would ya look at that…”.
    Sometimes it seems to be a sort of a blessing to be so out of sorts

    I’m WoW-fully pleased you shared this poem, but also send long belated condolences…each post must bring the whole scene back to life for you.

    Siggi in Downeast Maine

  12. Claudia said

    oh heck…well painted atmosphere sorry to hear about billy but then…at least sounds like he faced it with a smile..

    • You had to know Billy to appreciate the fact he probably did face it with a smile; he was Tommy Chong before Tommy Chong was.
      Thanks, Claudia!

  13. A sorry tale beautifully told, with evocative imagery and a warm and loving respect for a friend who was as flawed as the rest of us.

    • You hit the nail on the head, Vanessa; we are all flawed. It is when we finally and fully realize that, and stop trying to change ourselves and those around us into something we think we/they should be, that happiness and peace begin to settle upon us.
      Thanks for the wonderful comment!

  14. lucychili said

    a well told story. raw.

  15. Laurie Kolp said

    Beautiful, tragic piece. You have captured the atmoshpere perfectly. I guess if he had to die then, it was better that he was high and oblivious.

    • That’s certainly one way to look at it, Laurie. Billy was bound to go out high; that’s how he lived.
      Thanks for the comment!

  16. So sad – but remembered and told with great affection I can tell.

  17. Susan said

    Gosh darn. My fear rose the more still the men and dog became, but I was still unprepared for the end and the continued stillness, stillness. Something happened, something was gone. WOW! Love it.

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