Vine Maples are an amazing tree… Flexible, durable and strong, there are many applications for this tree, a couple of which I discovered accidentally. There was this creek that ran through where I lived on Cougar Mountain, and it had one bend that was overrun with Vine Maples. With my slight frame, I was able to swing on them like Tarzan, some feet up in the air, from one side of the creek to the other. Further up the way was a fresh spring, where we hauled our water down from. I also made bows from the Vine Maples and twine, using tree planting dowels for the arrows.
We met the owners of the Cougar Mountain property through a communal tree planting organization in Eugene, Oregon called the Hodags. This group consisted of a number of people who had their homes in buses and vans and trucks, who gathered at one location to accept contracts to plant thousands of trees across several states. At some locations, people set up tents, yurts and tipis to live in, and there was usually a communal kitchen bus or tent.
Some of those people lived up on Cougar Mountain with my family. The house the owners lived in sat on stilts and had a communal kitchen and bath house and garden. Some of our neighbors, back in the woods, in their buses, along unnamed dirt roads, were artisans and crafts people, creating wares to be sold at farmers markets and the like.
The styrofoam containers which carried these yet to be planted tree saplings we strapped to logs to form rafts which we could float on. I almost drowned on a pond doing that, but sort of taught myself to swim (with the help of some advice about how to doggie paddle and do the backstroke from a girl younger than myself whom I met while tree planting in Montana). My brothers and I always made due with whatever was presented to us for our entertainment.
This practice of innovation, of using whatever is at hand and problem solving, has been a positive thing on film shoots. On every film I’ve been involved with, new equipment or techniques or practices are innovated – sometimes on the spot, sometimes with a blueprint – to suit the particular needs of the production.