What’s the Absolutely Coolest Thing you OWN?

I’ve had in mind to do this post since a while ago, perhaps a year or two back, when I was sitting on the front deck of our mountain "cabin," in the summer, sipping a scotch, looking out and observing, verbally, to Beatrice, in a kind of a Duh-uh tone: "that’s the coolest thing I own." Of course, she’ll retort with "…that WE own." Details, details.

It’s a very large & mature cedar tree, in excess of 150 years old, according to an arborist who was in the neighborhood. Here’s the pics, hot off the iPhone.

View from the Porch
View from the Porch

Well that’s just probably a third of it. I’ll call it half and here’s the other, same perspective.

The Other Half from the Porch
The Other Half from the Porch

But looking at those images myself, there’s no real justice because it doest really look quite as big and majestic as it really is. So here.

The Root

The base circumfrance measures 29 feet. And as you can see, there are burn marks, many more on the south, downhill side which would make sense. This thing was at a time big enough to survive fires that came up the hill and raged through to consume the underbrush that accumulates (and that we clean out, once per year), quickly, leaving the fittest to survive Darwin-style, and grow even stronger.

Here’s a shot from right at the base.

A Giant

So what’s the coolest thing you OWN? I emphasize, "own," of course, because it’s such a lost concept. If you want to test that, try not paying your "property taxes" (that’s euphemism for rent). It’s primarily a neolithic concept I suppose, but nowadays, we like our Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts, Krispy Kreme, Cable and all the other stuff — good and bad — far more than we do the very concept at the root of it all.

And for anyone who wishes to assert the "our" in front of a thing such as sits in the front of MY yard, just go get your own. Thanks.

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  1. Josh on April 29, 2011 at 17:52

    That is a pretty cool tree…

    The coolest thing I own would have to be my Saiga 12. It’s a 12 gauge AK47…not exactly a practical gun but that’s just freakin’ cool!

    • Tim Starr on April 29, 2011 at 18:39

      Hey, no fair, I was gonna say my Saiga 12, too!

      • Josh on April 29, 2011 at 18:53

        Ha! Beat ya to it!

        They are beast man guns! So fun to shoot…

        How is yours set up?

      • Tim Starr on April 29, 2011 at 23:46

        Factory monte carlo stock w/ recoil pad, two 1o-round mags (one drum, one straight), plus the 5-round factory mag, of course. Might get a muzzle brake for it. Friend’s got one w/ a pistol grip, but I don’t like the way the trigger group had to get moved forward to accomodate it.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 29, 2011 at 19:54

      Well I would definitely have to put my Winchwester Model 94 30-30 lever action up there on the list somewhere.


      • Tim Starr on April 30, 2011 at 03:02

        Definitely a beauty…

      • Josh on April 30, 2011 at 09:21

        I love those old lever actions! The “high capacity assault rifles” of their day. :)

        Tim- I did the PG conversion on mine myself, a dremel, a few hours labor and a bit of cursing at the bolt hold open assembly and it was done. Handles infinitely better than the bastardized import configuration.


        That’s it on the bottom, the pic was a joke about “clinging to guns and religion” from some asshat who kept spewing the “paleo is a cult” meme…

      • Tim Starr on April 30, 2011 at 14:05

        Nice trio. Might do the bolt hold open on mine…

      • Josh on May 1, 2011 at 08:52

        They come with a manual bolt hold open… it’s the putting it back in with a standard AK trigger pack that’s a mofugga! lol

        Some people have made last round bolt hold opens for them but they require modifying the magazines…no thank you.

      • Paul C on May 1, 2011 at 12:57

        I also own large cedar trees, have a fascination for large trees, and own a Winchester 94 30-30. If I remember right, when I looked up the serial number, it was made in 1896. The gun was owned by my great-grandfather, a logging camp foreman who worked the camps in northern Michigan and Wisconsin. My dad used it for deer hunting until 5 years ago, and he used to brag that he got 7 deer with 6 bullets with that gun (one had been shot by someone else and died on his land).

  2. jenny on April 29, 2011 at 18:00

    beeeyoooootiful! of course, since she’ll (the tree) probably outlive you, maybe she owns you?

    • Susan on May 1, 2011 at 12:01

      Ah! The best answer of all! Very cool tree.

  3. Karen on April 29, 2011 at 18:21

    I work at a community college up north, and we make Christmas wreaths every year from the native western Cedar. (Calocedrus decurrens) It looks like what you have there, and I agree, it’s a very cool tree. What a prize you have! The wreaths made from the “Incense Cedar” are so fragrant, and a great thing to hang on the front door, and put on the mantle to enjoy the fragrance. OK, I now have a great visual of you(mov-nat style!) shimmying up your elder tree to harvest the goods.
    And why not?

    • Richard Nikoley on April 29, 2011 at 19:56

      Karen, up here those cedars literally grow like weeds. I have hundreds on the property, but this is by far the largest one.

  4. J. Stanton on April 29, 2011 at 18:28

    My novel.

    If you insist on individual physical objects, probably my guitar amp, because I hand-built and customized it myself to sound exactly how I want it to.

    All my other possessions serve a use, but they don’t really mean anything beyond “I like this and have the money to buy it, so I did.”


    • Primal Toad on April 29, 2011 at 18:38

      I just added your novel to my wish list. My iPad will arrive on Tuesday so I may have to buy the kindle version.

      Can you tell me what it is about?

  5. Primal Toad on April 29, 2011 at 18:28

    That tree is awesome. I have dreams of living in a cabin out in the woods. Soon. This makes me want to do it now…

    What is the coolest thing I own? That’s a tough one. I don’t live on my own so anything and everything outside, like a tree, say, I don’t own. I own a MAC and will own an iPad come Tuesday. I guess one of those 2 things are the coolest things I own.

    No, wait. It has to be the “Bacon is Rad, Gluten is Bad” t-shirt!

    • Josh on April 29, 2011 at 18:30

      That shirt is pretty sweet…

  6. Jamie G. on April 29, 2011 at 18:34

    The coolest thing I own… the 16 ounce steaks in my freezer.

  7. Mimi (Gingersnaps) on April 29, 2011 at 18:42

    My brain ;-). Actually, I’d have to say my PS3. It allows me to blow holes in people without going to jail. Pretty cool. I’d love to have a great tree like that though.

    Hmm, depending on how I’m feeling there are a few more things that spring to mind.

    – My laptop (aka my life’s record)
    – My book and cookbook collection
    – My film collection

    Anyone who goes through just one of those will get a healthy dose of science, philosophy, and cultural savvy.

  8. Alex Good on April 29, 2011 at 18:43

    My memories.

  9. Primal Dave on April 29, 2011 at 19:25

    The coolest thing I own is my critical thinking mind and free spirit.

  10. Phocion Timon on April 29, 2011 at 19:26

    My 16GB iPod Nano.

    When I put the earbuds in, people tend to leave me alone. I hate going to a public place, such as a grocery store, and have someone try to strike up a conversation while I am standing in line. I am completely uninterested in what The Great Unwashed have to say about anything.

  11. Treespeed on April 29, 2011 at 19:29

    Definitely my Surley Pacer (bicycle) or really whatever bike I’m using at any given time as bikes have always meant freedom, from when I first learned to ride as a kid, to now.

  12. fearsclave on April 29, 2011 at 19:46

    I’ve got this twenty year old biker jacket that’s got a lot of character. And a 1928 Tula ex-Dragoon Mosin Nagant that is this awesome fusion of spear, war club, and rifle. And my D.H. Russell no.1 hunting knife is a great piece of kit, too.

  13. Alec on April 29, 2011 at 23:45

    Richard, that’s an awesome tree and you should be proud to offer it such a splendid environment in which to tower.

    I do take exception to your political agenda here.

    Richard, at the end of the day, no one owns anything. We are just visitors here and the scythe of time takes everything away soon enough.

    The Native Americans had it right. The land is the land. Master yourself first. This concept of ownership resulted in the endless and merciless European wars and the wars of colonisation. Is the planet or mankind any better for it? No. Relatively soon we’re about to go through 100 million years of darkness again while the planet heals. Your tree will be a fossil and you and I will be dust.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 29, 2011 at 23:58

      “A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)”

      Extra points if you know who wrote that, without looking it up.

      Ownership is a _negative_ obligation, Alec. It simply means that you have to leave my shit alone unless I grant otherwise. If find that it is and has only ever been moochers and parasites that have a problem with that.

      Beyond that, I guess that you’ve never heard of “The Tragedy of the Commons.”


      • jenny on April 30, 2011 at 07:49

        not who i thought it was…and your cool factor just went up 10 points. :)

      • Matthew Miller on April 30, 2011 at 08:44

        It’s the “which means:” that gives it away. Which reminds me, my favorite property is probably some of my books, but certainly not all of them. Most of them are in the areas of philosophy and economics, and some in health/fitness. The best ones are those I can always go back to in order to re-educate myself and arm myself for dropping knowledge bombs on people.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 30, 2011 at 09:20

        What’s cool is that neither Jenny nor Matthew have given away the answer. People always learn more when they have to figure it out on their own. And, in this case particularly, it oftentimes allows for the integration of valid information without pre-judgment. Then, that same person is left with a dissonance when they do find the answer.

        And no, it’s not Karl Marx :)

      • Brian Scott on April 30, 2011 at 09:54

        I suspected who it was given the style of writing, though I did confirm it after.

        I often find that this style of epistemology is utterly foreign to most people, though. More often than not I hear about what [i]should[/i] be done rather than what [i]shouldn’t[/i] be done. It seems to be the nature of humanity as a whole that we seek, implement and enforce positive obligations very strongly. Maybe it comes with the territory of being a social animal.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 30, 2011 at 10:05

        Perhaps Brian, with the crucial difference that we evolved to account for the values and actions of 30-60 other individuals and had a real power to influence the whole group.

        But it doesn’t scale to 300 million and certainly not to 7 billion.

      • Lisa Wainer on April 30, 2011 at 11:20

        Shouldn’t s are much easier to itemise than shoulds.

      • jenny on May 1, 2011 at 12:59

        i just had more sugar than i usually and can barely form anything intelligible, but this point right here richard is SOOOOO crucial for us to grasp…after i’ve slept off the sugar and my brain goes back to running on ketones, i’ll be able to place a finger on why…

      • christina_aurelius on April 30, 2011 at 10:31

        One of my favorite possessions is a book as well. “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. Life changing stuff.

      • Gary on May 1, 2011 at 15:52

        I learned something :D, I’d heard the authors name before in a simon and garfunkel song and had meant to research it myself. If i hear of something/someone i’ve never heard before i have to learn more!

        Anyway, my cool stuff…
        1. Speed Graphic Camera
        2. Gretsch G100 Synchromatic Archtop Guitar
        3. Chet Baker Sings LP

    • Tim Starr on April 30, 2011 at 03:05

      Native Americans? I’m part Mohawk. We were conquering & enslaving our neighbors long before you Euro-American boat people got here. Or did you mean the Aztecs or Maya, who practiced human sacrifice? Or did you mean the Inca or Pueblo, who had totalitarian regimes?

      Lemme guess: You fell for the “Chief Seattle” speech hoax, right?

    • Phocion Timon on April 30, 2011 at 07:12

      Hah! Wanna bet? Come to my house and try to take some of “my” stuff and see how many lumps your head sprouts.

      I wonder how many inter-tribal wars resulted among our Native American brethren when Tribe A encroached upon Tribe B’s “territory?” Surely you don’t really think the Indians looked down upon slavery.

      The problem with you wishful thinkers is that the Native Americans were/are human beings. It is in our nature to go to war. We like violence and I suspect always will.

      • Tim Starr on April 30, 2011 at 14:00

        We Iroquois didn’t require territorial encroachment to conquer our neighbors. All we needed was for some of our own to die. Our form of mourning the dead was to conquer our neighbors & torture them to see if they were tough enough to replace our lost members.

      • Phocion Timon on May 1, 2011 at 09:22


      • Chris Butler on May 3, 2011 at 21:53

        Ah shkin ah go wah!
        Funny a white man thinks he can own a tree?

      • Richard Nikoley on May 3, 2011 at 22:01

        I do own it, Chris. Its easy to see why. Come try and assert otherwise, and I will be totally happy to see you carried out dead. I have guns and knives, stashed in variorums places because, you know, I really do own it and I actually know what that means.

        Come challenge it.

  14. Jim Arkus on April 30, 2011 at 04:30

    Nice tree! I’m much more suburban than your place, but I’ve got a nice pine tree in my backyard. I use it to do pull ups or chin ups, weighted, like Martin Berkhan has talked about on here. I look like a fucking weirdo – right near the road barefoot, doing chin ups from a tree with a bunch of weight plates chained to my waist. I said to my girlfriend awhile ago, “I think I’m becoming THAT GUY in the neighborhood,” and she goes “I don’t know, I think you’ve been that guy for awhile..” Great.

    • christina_aurelius on April 30, 2011 at 10:30

      Being THAT guys is awesome. My neighborhood is too sterile to have a THAT guy.

  15. Sandy on April 30, 2011 at 04:40

    I’ve gotta say our house. And we do own it, outright, although we won’t be moving into it for about another month. My boyfriend has spent the last year building it with his own hands. I personally have only been grouting tiles, installing the floors, sanding and priming cabinets and doing things here and there, not knowing my ass from a band saw. We designed almost all of it ourselves, a lot of it as we went, scouring shops for the best deals and the things we wanted, to hell with resale value and convention.

  16. pecanmike on April 30, 2011 at 04:51

    I think trees are one of the most beautiful things on earth. I own and care for about 4000 which are definitely my prize possessions and passion. By the way yours is a kick ass tree.

  17. Liz Downunder on April 30, 2011 at 06:25

    The coolest thing I own is a collection of 40+ pairs of Dr Martens boots – all different colours and patterns. I wear Docs every day except the hottest summer days. If I knew how to post a pic of them in their display shelves, I would. :)

    We have many beautiful old trees on our property, but I feel that they belong to the birds and other creatures that use them, as well as us.

  18. Steve on April 30, 2011 at 06:37

    My tattoo. It says “Strength is Happiness” on my left pec. It’s the only thing I own no-one can take from me. I love it.

    • jenny on April 30, 2011 at 07:47

      i’m with you steve. i love my tattoo too…it’s a flying erzulie heart (erzulie is the twin goddess of love and revenge in my native haiti) and around the wings it says “freedom above all else” in french.

  19. Kenny Younger on April 30, 2011 at 09:48

    My coolest stuff:

    I use every day: my skillet.
    Article of clothing: Wolverine 1000-mile boots
    Item I’ll hand down someday: hand-carved soapstone chess board set my parents gave to me
    Obvious: Bible

    Ditto to the already mentioned: Brain and Tattoo (circle on right shoulder blade)

    • Dave, RN on May 2, 2011 at 14:21

      Funny how even Bibles are changing. I see more than a few people in Church using their iPads now that have downloaded bibles on them, and the music guys and gals have them instead of sheet music. Just about all of my Bible reading is done on software. Easier to look up stuff.

      If you haven’t, rent “The Book of Eli”.

  20. christina_aurelius on April 30, 2011 at 10:28

    I love your tree, it’s pretty sweet!

    The coolest thing I own was free. It’s a little black 8.5 years old female cat. Her name is Squeek. I have had her since she was 1 day old. She sleeps on my pillow every night and is my greatest little friend. She has been with me through the birth of my child, the death of my husband, multiple moves and life moments. Just like your tree, I won’t “own” her forever but while I do I will take the very best care of her. Sure, I’ve got computers, ipods, trinkets from traveling, books, jewelry, a fun car and all the usual things that a person living in the US would have. None of that crap means anything to me when compared to this little cat.

    Am I a cat lady? You fucking bet.

  21. Jan on April 30, 2011 at 13:26

    Not cool, perhaps, but of great sentimental value: three landscapes painted by my mother (a talented woman, indeed), who died from heart disease 15 years ago at the tender age of 51. Yes, she was a heavy smoker, but she also jumped into the whole high carb/low fat thing feet first when the gubmint began recommending it in the mid/late 70s. Her diet was atrocious – skinless, boneless chicken breasts and Snackwell cakes and cookies were abundant in her home, along with bottles of vegetable oils and fat-free sour cream.

    Sometimes I think I’d give just about anything to be able to go back in time and grab her by the shoulders while I yell, “MOM – YOU ARE KILLING YOURSELF!”

    • christina_aurelius on April 30, 2011 at 15:10

      Hindsight is 20/20, or so they say.

      I’m an artsy person myself and I wish I had the talent to paint landscapes. Crap, I can’t even paint people! Good thing my degree is in art HISTORY and not studio art! I would cherish art made by my mother as well =)

  22. LXV on April 30, 2011 at 13:43

    My computer and internet connection. The unprecedented access to information and people from nearly anywhere in the world boggles my mind. Without my computer I never would have discovered Paleo, never would have gotten together with the man I love more than anything, and probably would have let a lot of friendships slide away.

    I can shop, communicate, research, create, work and play on one device. It’s marvelous.

  23. Alex on April 30, 2011 at 17:55

    Nuthin’ as cool as that tree, but it is kinda cool to be out in the country, on 190 acres, with the two and a half miles of fiber optic line that I had buried out to the house for Internet access. At the time, satellite was the only broadband option out here, and it was another five years before the phone company started offering DSL outside of town. What’s nice is that my connection is unthrottled and my provider has had to buy more bandwidth as they’ve grown out their network. So, what started out at around 10 mbps is now up to 40 mbps.

  24. Trish on April 30, 2011 at 19:44

    I don’t quite own it yet but I will in two weeks–our new condo, three blocks equidistant from both the largest Confederate hospital and the church where Patrick Henry proclaimed “give me liberty or give me death!” My inner history geek is geeking HARD.

  25. Another Halocene Human on April 30, 2011 at 22:36

    Huh? Property is a neolithic concept. Late neolithic at that. Even many agricultural societies which may have acceded to the concept of owning livestock* still considered land to be something that you occupied/borrowed/rented for a while.

    *-and that’s not just East Africa: the Roman word for “money” was derived from the word for “heads of cattle”

    In fact, that’s how the Manhattan Indians got ripped by the Dutch. (Crafty bastards–just ask the Belgians.) THEY thought they were negotiating a long-term lease!

    • Richard Nikoley on April 30, 2011 at 22:41


      Yep’ private property is indeed Neolithic, yet far, far more ancient than your computer. Stupid fuck.

    • Brian Scott on April 30, 2011 at 23:07

      To be slightly more diplomatic, all rights and properties of man are axiomatic derivations at his own pleasure. That it came during the neolithic is irrelevant (also, see Kurt Harris Venn diagram that neolithic does not automatically equal bad).

      I should also note, like Richard, that by property we’re not just referring to real estate, but to all materials.

    • Tim Starr on May 1, 2011 at 01:47

      For many American Indian tribes, the penalty for tresspassing on their land was death. So much for their not having the concept of “property.”

      And no, the Manhattans didn’t get ripped off by the Dutch (also my ancestors, on another side). They weren’t just selling the land, they were also negotiating an alliance, which was successful. Go read some real history like “The Island at the Center of the World.” The Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam lived in peace w/ the Manhattans & practiced free trade w/ them. They only got dragged into wars w/ the Indians through their alliances w/ the local tribes.

  26. Bushrat on April 30, 2011 at 23:43

    So Richard, have you climbed that monster yet? Once you get to the trouble you can beat your chest and declare yourself king of the jungle or backyard as the case may be.

  27. Franco on May 1, 2011 at 00:17

    My around 100 y.o. cherry tree!
    Owning trees is cool in general.
    Of course it isn’t as tall as yours but therefor I climb it every year to harvest cherries. :)

  28. Steven on May 1, 2011 at 14:23

    My father’s “blood wings”.

  29. james on May 1, 2011 at 19:07

    St. Ignatius pendant, and belt buckle made from nacre, holz, and brass, that belonged to my Opa.

    After that I dunno man everything in my studio.. record collection, 1200s, keyboards, monitors, rack, etc.

  30. HeMan on May 1, 2011 at 20:37

    100 hectares (~250 acres for those who swing that way) of forest, including an area of old-growth cedar and hemlock in an interior rainforest remnant in BC.

    There’s a biologist fellow who’s told me some of the trees are somewhere around 500-1000 years old. Some of the protected remnants [parks] have examples around 2000-3000 years old.
    An example of one of these regional parks, youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9-QSymTqbk

    My family may “own” it, but mostly we just let it be. It’s simply a place to hike, camp, and hunt.

  31. Ruben on May 2, 2011 at 00:15

    I’d say the coolest thing I own is my wife. But as I’m still making payments on her, I’m not quite certain. :)

    In reality: a dagger that my grandfather bought for himself when he was a boy, and which never left his side until he died at 91. It’s a crappy piece of workmanship, rusts like crazy, is as blunt as a watermelon, but that’s the only material possession I’d run into a burning house for.

    Everything else I own (which isn’t much; I need less and less the more disposable income I have) is replacable. Even my record collection.

  32. Paul C on May 2, 2011 at 12:14

    My Tom Kuhn SB2 anodized aluminum yo-yo is pretty cool. Although now that I’m a lot stronger, a ball-bearing yo-yo that can sleep for over a minute has become more dangerous on the trip back up.

  33. Dave, RN on May 2, 2011 at 14:10

    The coolest thing I own is my knowledge. I can do lots of stuff with it and nobody can steal it from me. Anything else I have can get stolen or burn up or break.

  34. Tim Huntley on May 3, 2011 at 09:05

    A five inch Savannah River spearpoint (about 5 inches long and in perfect condition) that I found while tilling ground on my farm. It is approximatley 8000 years old.


  35. Kevin Hughes on May 3, 2011 at 12:03

    I read your post last night and had to fight the temptation to pound out a response. Instead, I just took my dogs and a good cigar out on the trail for an hour and a half and thought it through. It came down to a race between 2 things; a dead heat.

    In 1927, on the occasion of their engagement, my grandmother on my Dad’s side gave my grandfather a gold watch, a pocket watch as they probably all were at the time. For a wedding present, one year later, she gave him a chain for the watch, and a tiny pocket knife with a tartan handle that clips onto the chain. This watch has traveled to almost every continent in the world, and was handed down to my Dad and then to me. It works perfectly to this day. As you know, coolness is not a characteristic, it is a responsibility. I keep it in a small glass case with a hook inside, and wind it 19 turns each morning. The watch is the coolest thing I own from a sentimental and historical perspective.

    The other coolest thing is my Squeezeboz music server. As empty nesters, we moved from a large family house to a 900 square foot townhouse, so we had to adopt many compromises to make the best use of the space we have. I ripped all my 1300 CD’s to a hard drive and got rid of them. I also got rid of our electronic mess that we called a stereo. Now, we have a vintage 1976 receiver and the Squeezebox. No more pre-amp, amp, D/A converter, CD player and the attendant mass of tangled wires. AND, we pull in over 25,000 internet radio stations from all over the world. Magic.

    Total value of the above cool things? I have no idea of the monetary value of the watch and I don’t care. It’s just cool. And the music server was $300. Love ’em!

  36. Gene on May 3, 2011 at 16:21

    Property taxes make me even more sad than income taxes.

  37. Jim on May 13, 2011 at 22:15

    The opening line you said you were sipping a scotch, which is made from grain. I’m reading up on the paleo diet, and I am wondering if things such as beer and scotch whiskey maintain the “negatives” of wheat after the fermentation (and distilling in the case of scotch)?

    • Richard Nikoley on May 14, 2011 at 07:52

      Jim, beer definitely….gluten. Beer often gives me a stuffy nose, so I stay away from it except very rarely. In terms of spirits, anyone’s call. tequila is probably the best cause it’s made from agave and there are still a few potato vodkas around, like Chopin, I believe. I don’t think any gluten survives the distillation process for whiskeys, but perhaps some lectins do.

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