Some people are born into their calling and tree man – Tree Dog — Dave Lutes is one of those. From the first moment he took a job planting trees, he understood this was the life for him. He was captivated and has never looked back despite some serious falls and many broken bones and other parts. “I learned from every experience,” he says proudly, adding that he learns from others but enjoys imparting what he knows.
What Dave knows may be different from the average book scholar. He learned from the trees themselves, and from the myriad animals and birds that join the great tree community. He says that all trees alter their environment just by being trees and the interactions of the wildlife around them can tell you a lot about the condition of the tree.
Dave is hyper aware of the presence of trees. He can identify the species by smell. Cypress leaves to most wonderful perfume around you, he says, but poplar trees frankly stink. At least, they exude an unpleasant odour. And cherry trees? Well, they smell like fresh cherries, has says.
After a long reflective pause, he answered the question about his favourite tree with a name: the American elm. But he was hard pressed to choose since right next, on either side, Green ash and Maple were jostling for position. What does elm smell like? Indescribable. It smells uniquely like elm – sort of clean if not antiseptic.
Hi son has also taken up the profession despite Dave’s concerns about the hardships such as falling, but when trees and wood are in your blood, the relationship is impossible to ignore. He is proud, too, that his son is following in his footsteps – more cautious than his own, to be sure, because Dave can pass on the lessons from the mistakes he made.
What would he say to a tree is he could converse with it? “I’d say, ‘I’m sorry’,” he says, “Sorry that you are not with your family in the great forest. I will do my best for you, but most of it is up to you.”
Asked what song he would love to hear, he chose Love Train, by the Ojays. It’s all about how people need to love one another. This choice says so much about Dave, Tree Dog and delightful human being.