Friday, February 16, 2007

A Memorial to the Mighty Tree [CCR]

This morning a tree stump caught my attention on the way to work. To most people it might look like an ordinary stump, but to me I could see beyond the tattered weather marks to where a mighty tree once stood. This stump still holds firm to the ground, having given up its trunk soaring to the sky but not its firm grip to the soil. I can imagine a young child stopping to rest under the shade or a worker taking a moment to revitalize under its magnificent shade. This stump has a story to tell, if only someone would stop and listen.

Such a stump rests in the yard of my parents. It’s remnants are a lasting memorial to a mighty hackberry tree that served our family well. The tree had a difficult beginning. I recall my Granddaddy Smith saying he accidentally plowed over the tree years before my arrival to our world. He nursed the tree back to health. The tree recovered under Granddaddy’s gentle care and it became part of our back yard. Granddaddy gave Mom and Dad the property around the tree to build a home. The tree grew to become master of the terrain.

I can remember looking up into the large tree watching the limbs wave and the leaves rustle in the wind. The tree supplied shade to my sandbox where I spent many hours practicing life in what we call play. The tree also provided many hours of flying high in the air on the rope swing that hung in grandeur from a tall limb. My sister and I took turns feeling the breeze blow through the air and looking up at the sun glistening through the leaves.

By the time I left home for college I’m not sure there was a taller tree within sight. At least it seemed that way when standing in the back yard. It overshadowed the pecan and walnut trees in a fatherly image. Its thick brawny trunk held the giant tree firm in strong winds. The far reaching branches provided a cooling shade over the majority of our back yard and a good portion of the house.

As time would have it, the tree aged. The trunk wore and the limbs began to crack with weight. Unfortunately Dad had to trim the tree to a size manageable by the aged trunk. But the roots held firm and the tree continued to mark its place as it aged.

The tree’s epitaph was written last summer when one of my boys noticed the large trunk had rotted from the inside. It was deemed no longer safe to withstand strong winds. The tree had to come down. And so with the help of my sons, Dad brought the tree down. In one last show of strength it crushed the barbecue pit Dad had built when I was child as it fell. The boys took turns with the tractor hauling the remnants to the pasture.

Today the stump still lies in its place proclaiming it could handle a grand tree. But alas the trunk is filled with a colorful flower bed. The pecans and walnuts can still look to the trunk for advice for it has a story to tell. A story of children playing in a sandbox, a picnic table shaded for a summer meal, and a swing to carry one high in the sky. I miss the old tree and I am also certain the stump and roots left behind miss me.