A Particularly Beautiful Branch

Awase, Okinawa

When I was stationed in Okinawa (Jan. 1976 – Jul. 1977) I lived at the top of a very high and steep hill overlooking the city of Awase (also the name of the transmitter site I was stationed at.)

Awase, Okinawa 4

(Not my original picture. My place was much higher up the hill and from an angle further to the left. You can see a couple of the T-Site antennas in this photo, though.)

It was just a tiny, three-room place—kitchen/dining room, bedroom, bathroom—over an open garage. There was a stone fence surrounding my place, the yard, and a larger, two-bedroom house next door. There was also a taxi company outside the fence and slightly down the hill, which was very convenient for the several times my bike (a Honda 450-2) was in the shop. The neighboring house stood empty for the whole first year I was there, which was awesome as far as privacy went. 🙂 The phone line came in at the back of the house, running through the branches of a tree as it did. (This will be come relevant soon.)

My humble abode 1 - Okinawa - Jan. 1976 to Jul. 1977

My humble abode

Situated where it is, the island of Okinawa is prone to suffering from occasional typhoons, and the first one occurred shortly after I moved in to my little hilltop home. I worked at the naval transmitter site in Okinawa then, and we (all personnel) were always called in to work during such emergency conditions. After the storm was over, I returned to my house only to find that the phone was out. Apparently the high winds blew the branches around forcefully enough to detach the line from the house.

I, of course, had absolutely no idea who to call and probably wouldn’t have been able to speak with them even if I did. I went out to sample the Okinawan night life (as usual) and had duty the next day. I did ask my bosses what they recommended I do about my phone problem, hoping they’d have some useful suggestions, but, in true military tradition, their only advice was “You’re required to have a means of contact while living off-base at all times so you’d better get that fixed.”

Needless to say, this was not the answer I was looking for, but further action proved to be unnecessary; when I got home after work I found that the magic phone fairies had reconnected my line without me ever having to tell a soul it was broken. 🙂 🙂

However, when the next typhoon came along, my phone line was once again detached, and while it was also reattached (by those phone fairies?) within a day, I was getting a little upset and frustrated by the constant loss of my phone line, since it happened any time there were strong winds; not just during typhoons. After about the third or fourth time, I finally grabbed a hand saw and went out onto the back porch, determined to remove the offending branch.

I was out there with the likely suspect in one hand and a saw in the other, ready to do the deed when I stopped to think about it. I mean, who was I to stop the tree from growing where it wanted to. The telephone line intruded on its space, not the other way around. Plus, the telephone company obviously knew about the branch and its propensity to knock that line out during strong storms, but they (or the magic phone fairies) chose to repair the line automatically after every storm, rather than remove the branch. This was clearly a very important and beautiful branch!

I know it’s probably a stereotype, but I am aware that the Japanese have a deep appreciation of nature, and often write poems about butterflies, trees and even just the wind, among other things. In fact there was a novelty song from the 60s called ‘Ue O Muite Aruko‘, which my girlfriend at the time translated as ‘Walking Along, Looking Up‘, but which the US record companies released Sukiyaki, that was about that very poetic nature.

In any case, after reconsidering what I was about to do, I put the saw away and left the branch alone. Of course, it knocked my phone out several more times before I left in 1977, but if it didn’t bother the phone fairies (I assume it was magic phone fairies since I never once saw any actual person fixing the line) to come out and repair it every time, I wasn’t going to let it bother me.

Besides, it really was a very nice little branch. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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R. S. Leergaard

US Navy veteran and writer of stories. Blogger of things.

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