As far back as anyone can remember the massive Oak tree stood over the back of the home on my family’s farm in Lexington, South Carolina. This majestic tree filtered the morning light like none other I have ever seen, it shaded our family cookouts and fish fries during the summer, played host to many of my childhood fantasies of fighting villains, and many occasions drew my ire in the fall as it dropped an unprecedented amount of leaves that required my young arms to rake, as it did for countless generations before me.
As life tends to be for all manner of living things not, all of the 300 years it lived were kind to this gentle giant. Our best guess is that this little sapling came into existence around the same time the United States of America became a free nation. It managed to persevere though the civil war, the industrial revolution, the Great Depression, and too many droughts, hurricanes, ice storms, and thunderstorms to count. Unfortunately during several of those storms it suffered grazing wounds and on at least three occasions in known history was struck by lightning, an occurrence that took the life on many of its compatriots. Somehow, this tree managed to survive and continue looking over my family for at least seven generations.
While many attempts including the installation of a lighting rod, pruning by a skilled arborist, and several other folksy remedies have been undertaken during my lifetime to try preserve one of the longest standing members of our family the day came where the big oak just couldn’t fight any longer. It began to drop its hefty limbs onto the roof and deck of the house below, but my grandmother, mother, and l put off the inevitable for longer than we should have. Every time I would drive over after a storm I would expect to see a hundred year old limb laying across the splintered remains of the hundred year old roof, but that day never came. The more cerebral instincts within me know that this was just dumb luck, but the spiritual side of me that is capable of associating all manner of emotions to all types of flora and fauna, led me to think that this old friend was fighting its damnedest to keep the place it had called home for nearly three centuries safe.
The realization that I needed do right by my old friend finally occurred to me a few months ago. That irrational side of me which associated human emotions to this inanimate object finally aligned with the rational side of me and knew we needed to remove they dying tree before it caused a serious amount of damage or injured someone. Plans were set in place for its removal. When the day finally came the crew worked quickly and diligently to remove the massive Oak, and leave the house completely unscathed.
It is difficult to imagine the upcoming summer without the sounds of leaves rustling overhead as we grill or sit on the back deck and listen to the crickets. There were more than a few acorns collected and saved in a Ziploc bag from our old friend’s final year of life that will hopefully breed new life come springtime, and perhaps one day my great, great grandchildren will know what its like to have a massive oak towering over them that has been there long before anyone alive can remember.