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Cheryl Hughes: Reinvention

Occasionally, I read stories about people who reinvent themselves after retirement.  They move to new places, go back to school, take up painting or learn to play a musical instrument.  I’ve always admired those types of people, because I know how much effort it takes to learn new things as you age.

I knew a woman who became a park ranger after retiring from a successful career in education.  The idea of being outdoors in the company of trees has a certain pull on my imagination.  Currently, I am reading the book TREE STORY, by Dr. Valerie Trouet.  Dr. Trouet is a dendrochronologist, a person who studies tree rings.

Until I read this book, I thought the only way you could count tree rings was by cutting down the tree.  Not so.  These scientists use increment borers that do no harm to the tree.  Dr. Trouet explains it this way.  “Trees grow from the outside in.  The most recent ring is just inside the bark, and the oldest, first-formed ring is at the center.  It is the delicate layer between the bark and the wood, the cambium layer, that is responsible for a tree’s woody growth.  Of the entire trunk of a tree, this wafer-thin cambium layer, just inside the bark, is the only part that is actually alive.  Everything else—the wood and the bark—is dead material that functions primarily to provide stability and protection and to transport water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves and vice versa.  Tree-ring coring removes an area only 

0.2 inches wide, “about the size of a chopstick.”

Dendrochronologists travel the world over in search of old trees.  They work hand-in-hand with dendroclimatologists, who study weather patterns in the tree rings.  The wider rings tell of years with lots of precipitation.  The rings that are closer together record years of drought.  These scientists study ancient trees with names like Adonis, Methuselah, and Prometheus in places like, the Pindos Mountains in northern Greece and the Great Basin in the United States. 

Hiking up the sides of mountains to use an increment borer then carrying the samples back to base camp in a backpack is a lot more than my body can bear up under, but if I were younger and fitter, I would pursue a career in dendrochronology.

You know, I always thought when Garey retired from our business, he would spend his later years puttering around the farm, planting food plots, checking traps, and involving himself in wood working projects in his shop, so you can imagine my surprise when he told me he had other plans.

After reading an article on Chinese funerals, Garey announced that he plans to move to Taiwan and become a funeral director.  It turns out, besides flowers and mourners, funerals in Taiwan, come complete with strippers.  You read that right…pole dancers.  

“The dancers there perform on top of so-called Electric Flower Cars—trucks that act as stages and form part of the funeral procession.”  (  

You might ask yourself, as I did, why the bereaved would hire strippers for the send-off of their loved ones.  According to, this practice happens mostly in rural areas of the country.  The strippers attract more funeral attendees, and the locals associate a large attendance with a successful funeral.  A large crowd is a symbol of honor for the deceased and his family.

The funeral procession for Tung Hsiang, a councilman from the city of Chiayi in Taiwan, included 50 pole dancers on top of 50 jeeps.  One observer commented, “This is what it means to be the people’s councilor.” (

If you, like Garey, are considering a career as a funeral director in Taiwan, you’d better get a move on.  China has started cracking down on this miscreant behavior.  The government there set up a special hotline for the public to report any funeral “misdeeds,” even offering rewards for the tips.

In all likelihood, I won’t be moving to Taiwan with Garey.  My brain is too tired to learn the language—Chinese or Mandarin.  I’ll just stay here on the farm and let Garey send me money for food plots, traps, and wood working projects.  In the event that the Chinese government issues a “cease and desist” order, somebody has to have a backup plan.




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