THE TREE…my Ancient Friend

Joe Forma Photo

  • Trees, People, Wildlife, Home and Air we Breath
  • Shade, Shelter, Habitat, Leaves and Natural Fertilizer
  • Fond Memories from Days Long Ago, some Thoughts for Days Ahead
  • Let’s ALL Learn More About Trees
These Great Horned Owl chicks are right at home with their mama in their nesting tree. Missouri Department of Conservation photo

By Larry Whiteley

I was on my way to our cabin when I saw it. I am sure I’ve seen it lots of other times. It was just a glimpse as I drove by. Why did it bother me so much then? It was just a bulldozer knocking over a tree. That happens all the time in today’s world. We have to have more convenience stores, banks and shopping centers, don’t we?

People have always cleared fields of trees. They did it to grow crops or raise cattle so they could feed their families. The trees were used for firewood to keep them warm. Now, they push over trees and just burn them to get rid of them. When the shopping centers are completed, people take their families there to feed them or shop.

What really amazes me is to see developers clear the land of trees for a new housing complex and then name the streets after them. Then, people that buy the houses go to the local home improvement store or nursery to spend hundreds of dollars on small trees to plant in their yards that will take years to grow as big as those that were once there.

As I kept driving, I tried to think about what I needed to get done when I got to my cabin surrounded by the woods of the Mark Twain National Forest. I tried to listen to what the guy on the radio was saying. It didn’t do any good. I kept seeing the bulldozer pushing over the tree. Why couldn’t I get it out of my mind? It was just a tree.

Maybe it bothered me so much this time because I’m getting older and wiser. Well, older anyway. My mind took me back to when I was a kid growing up on the farm. I would spend all day wandering around in the woods. The trees hid me from all the Indians that were after me. I dodged their arrows as I ran from tree to tree. My imagination entertained me back then. I didn’t need TV, video games or a smart phone.  Thank God my kids grew up enjoying the woods. Now my grandkids are discovering the wonder of the woods, climbing trees and carving initials.

Other days, I would climb up into the comforting arms of a tree and soak in the wonder of the woods or just daydream. I can still remember the odd shape, a weird knot, the feel of the bark on certain trees. I wonder if some of those trees are still there. I wonder if my initials are still carved in them.

As I got older, I would head to the woods with my dog Bo and my little single shot .22, bought with money I had earned. I still have that gun and the memories of knowing I only had one shot so I couldn’t miss when that squirrel ran out on a limb. We didn’t have a lot of extra money to be buying more .22 shells and that squirrel was supper.

I still enjoy hiking in the woods. I love the kaleidoscope of fall colors. I still climb trees, but now it’s to sit in a treestand waiting for a deer to walk by. My granddaughter poses for pictures on a grapevine swing. My grandson loves to hunt squirrels and deer now too. I smile as I watch them and I remember.

What was it that the guy on the radio just said? “And he created the heavens and the earth.” He created all the trees too didn’t he?

It shouldn’t be bothering me about seeing that tree pushed down. After all, I cut down trees too, don’t I? Their wood keeps our cabin warm during the cold of winter. They are also magically transformed into hiking sticks, candle holders, lamps, coat racks and lots of other things in my workshop.  

I am wise enough to know that if your home is shaded by trees, your air conditioner won’t run as much and you’ll save money on electricity. You might even be able to open your windows and enjoy a fresh breeze. Cleaning the gutter, picking up limbs and raking leaves is a small price to pay.

Even my 10-year old grandson can tell you that the more trees you cut down, the less oxygen you have. Oxygen – you know the stuff that helps you breathe. I read somewhere that a single tree is valued at over $13,000 during its lifetime for the oxygen it provides. Multiply that times the number of trees in your yard, if you have trees in your yard.

Trees are also important to the wildlife that use them. Birds and squirrels build nests, turkeys roost in their tops, deer rub their bark, woodpeckers peck. Wildlife feeds on the nuts, berries and insects they provide.

Fish and other aquatic species also rely on trees for shade along their watery homes. When they die and fall into the water they provide fish habitat and safety from predators.

I pull into my cabin and a song is playing on the radio. As I listen, I’m not upset anymore. The words roll over in my mind as I look around at all the trees. “He grew the tree that he knew would be used to make the old rugged cross.” You see, that was the most important tree of all.