I had a tough moment a few weeks ago when I had tree taken down in my backyard. It was like I had lost a loving pet or an old comrade.
That tree came into my life about 33 years ago when my wife decided to plant three saplings. We hoped they would eventually turn into great shade.
One of the three took off immediately, turning into a large shade tree. I don’t know what kind of tree it is, nor the other two. (It’s like when I was little child, every soft drink I had was a Coke, except for Barq’s root beer.)
The other two were slow. One was planted in a position that caused me problems while mowing the yard. I “accidentally” hit it several times with the mower resulting in its untimely, but appreciated, demise.
The other one, that we eventually nicknamed “The Stick,” was about three feet to the left of being a true grass-cutting nuisance.
In hindsight, I don’t know why I didn’t “accidentally” bump it, too. But it looked so pitiful that I thought it would die of natural causes.
There was something special about it. It would bend, lean swish and sway during hurricanes and high winds, but dang it, it wouldn’t go away.
After many years, it started to grow. Then it went crazy, soaring to the sky, with limbs spreading out all over the place. Lo and behold, it was becoming a real shade tree.
A couple of years ago, I noticed that the tree’s above-ground roots were spreading all over the yard, threatening to attack our house at three points. And there were roots heading toward my neighbor’s driveway.
She was nice about it, but occasionally hinted about the creeping threat.
During the dying hours of Hurricane Barry recently, I noticed the limbs were near the house that the root system had taken up about half the yard.
“The Stick” had to come down.
I told our son and daughter that “The Stick” was going away. I told my neighbor, too. She smiled. But I knew she was jumping up and down with joy inside.
So, on a recent afternoon, a tree-cutting team came over, armed with a crane, several little tractor-looking things, chain saws and other stuff. With military precision, they went after my 25-foot tall tree.
My neighbor and I watched the proceedings. I used my cellphone to send to my family pictures of the dismemberment and death of the tree. In less than hour, “The Stick” was gone. Its stump and the root system disappeared the next day.
Borrowing from a line in “Macbeth,” but not for the same reasons, “If it were done when ′tis done then t’were well it were done quickly.”
My son, who had noticed the threatening roots earlier when he was home, was OK with the decision.
My daughter was different. Two of her three degrees are in urban forestry, i.e. trees. She has saved trees. She was not happy and fully vetted me on the need to let the tree go.
In the end, she was convinced, but I could tell she was not a happy camper.
And why not? That tree has been a quiet member of the family. In its own way, it provided more than shade. It was a life marker.
It was there the rainy night that my young son and I were rescuing a neighbor’s pups stuck in a fence; the neighbor accused my son’s dog of fathering his dog’s pups. I finally let my son explain: “But my dog is a girl dog.”
It was there when my dad stopped me during an outside card game to write a note that he did not want to be kept alive through artificial means if his prognosis was terminal.
It was there when another neighbor called to give me the scoop that my daughter and her friends were holding an unannounced and not requested high school senior skip day barbecue in the backyard.
That tree served as shade over the years as thousands of crawfish volunteered, for the greater good, to enter pots of highly seasoned boiling water.
It cast shade when my daughter had a great prenuptial party at the house the day before her wedding.
I walked my tiny granddaughters out to that tree at times so they could hold Pop’s hand while I barbecued.
It’s where my grandson and I fried a turkey too long last year. I won’t admit that we (I) burned it.
I am missing that tree like I miss a dear friend. Maybe one day I’ll plant something in that spot, and it will have to hear the story of “The Stick.”
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly column, at firstname.lastname@example.org.