The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

17 March 2003

Watching it go

I was squishing my way down to the mailbox when F. (not necessarily her real initial) poked her head out of her door and acknowledged my presence.

In response, I pointed to the big elm tree out front and said, "What do you think? Dead?"

"Think so," she replied.

The big elm tree is about thirty percent less big this spring: a winter ice storm broke away one of the three major limbs, and while everything else is gradually going green — well, except the cottonwood trees along 42nd, which are already sprouting Q-tips — this tree is still barren, its branches grey, almost black in the March rain.

One does not romanticize trees on the prairie; they are there, and eventually they are not there, and you're supposed to shrug and go on. It's different in the Midwest, as H. Allen Smith once explained:

Midwesterners worship trees. I have frequent guests from the middle states and invariably I find that they venerate trees and that the cutting down of a tree is, to them, close to a mortal sin. I'll be walking around the premises with one of them, and I'll point to a tree and say, "Think I'll get the ax and take that damn tree out." They are horrified. They react as if I'd said, "Think I'll get the ax, since it's a nice day, and do away with my wife and kids."

I looked at the big elm again, and maybe I did, maybe I didn't, see the faintest hint of green along the lower branches, the tender beginnings of a leaf or two or a dozen or a thousand. Then again, I was born in Illinois.

Curiously, so was H. Allen Smith.

Posted at 5:17 PM to Soonerland


It boggles the mind, but here in sub-tropical west Georgia, where trees are rats with leaves, I think I got marked as the neighborhood axe murderer for taking down two trees in my yard that were already clearly headed for the Great Orchard in the Sky.

In the Central Valley of California (pardon my F****h), which is just a wetter and less snowy version of the prairie, I could have put every tree on the property through a chipper-shredder and the neighbors would mention in passing two weeks later, "Seen ya took out yer trees, eh?"

<shrug>

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at 7:48 PM on 17 March 2003

Tree killer! Gonna send the Ents after you. Heh heh.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 8:31 PM on 17 March 2003

At least I wasn't burning the trees to power an orc factory. That should get me a lighter sentence.

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at 7:16 AM on 18 March 2003

Now cottonwoods: isn't that the tree I first saw last year in my daughters back yard in Wyoming, the one that makes it "snow" in May? That's one species I don't regret we have none of out east.

Posted by: fredf at 4:34 PM on 18 March 2003

Since they quit hanging horse thieves and such, the cottonwood doesn't have much use anymore — unless you know of someone who'll actually buy industrial-strength lint.

Posted by: CGHill at 5:22 PM on 18 March 2003

I used to work next do a literal grove of cottonwoods. I got so over-exposed to those things that I'm now allergic to them.

Posted by: Steve at 10:57 PM on 18 March 2003

I was born in the South and have spent most of my life there but I am something of a "tree-hugger" myself. We have trees die on our place every year and those have supplied us with enough firewood to completely eliminate big winter heating bills. I appreciate that immensely but I still hate to see trees die. We recently cut down a living tree because it was in the way. We kept almost backing into it with our vehicles so we finally decided that it had to go. I sort of felt like we should have a funeral or something.

Posted by: Lynn S at 7:25 AM on 19 March 2003