“The Tree is Dead: Long Live the Tree!”
When we first moved into our home in McCandless, one of the great joys was tree watching. Tree watching is somewhat like bird watching, except you can do it with only one species of tree.
One of the trees on my life list at the time was the giant white oak just beyond our rear property line. It was a great tree to watch. In the spring, the Black-and-White Warblers checked the trunk for insects, the Black-throated-Blue could be seen high among the top branches, and an occasional Blackburnian Warbler would appear in all its splendor.
Squirrels nested in that tree. In summer the female trained the young in survival techniques. She would have all four of the young scampering near by, but bee-line for the four-inch entrance hole to the safety of their comfortable apartment. When she signaled the all-clear, four little bodies tried to squeeze out of the hole at the same time.
Later on, we built a shed near the base of the oak. The first occupant of the shed, aside from the wheel barrow, were field mice. Then came the Raccoon's. We didn’t discover the 'coons until the young were about a week old. When we insisted on taking pictures of them, mama 'coon had enough of us and trucked the little ones up the tree to a giant-sized hole where a limb had been knocked off and the tree was hollow. Later, we saw them from time to time, growing fat on the field corn we put our for the squirrels.
We hung a tire swing on the tree many years ago. The commotion associated with the swing didn’t bother the birds or animals, even though all the kids of the neighborhood used it for hours at a time.
A few years ago, the old oak died. Old age, I guess. It was probably 150 to 175 years old, one of the few trees the early farmer who owned the land had left standing, probably to provide shade for the cows.
Last week, a tree-removal service showed up to give the neighbor a price on removing the tree. I tried, but I couldn’t convince the owner that the tree had any value other than firewood. Nor could I convince him that the tree wouldn’t fall on my house - that it would lose limbs one at a time until there wasn’t enough left to reach the house, even if it did fall.
The tree is still there, but I feel I have failed in my effort to save it. I could have done a better job of convincing my neighbor to let it stand. I should have made him realize that a dead tree is not dead, rather it is alive with nature. The Hairy Woodpecker is still there, the squirrels love that tree, the Nuthatch nest there, and wander down its trunk - head first - looking for a tasty insect meal, and it is one of the trees in our area that doesn’t cater to the gypsy moths. Although the tree is dead, there is life aplenty dependent on that tree.
I’m going to get back to my neighbor and do a better sales job on him. That tree is dead, granted. But the tree bears life, and as such, I would hate to see it go.
The tree is dead: long live the tree!
P.S.: I wrote the above item about the White Oak on October and went away. When I came home in November, the tree was gone - cut to firewood sized logs, scattered about the yard, waiting to be split for use in the fireplace.