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Our Big Oak: Hard Times

John W. Pinkerton


Our big oak tree was the central subject of my essay “My Tree.” (http://oldartguy.com/My_Tree.html)

If you read the essay, you'll realize that I have a lot of respect for that tree.  The tree is at least a quarter century older than I am which would make it around a hundred.  That tree has seen a lot.  That tree knows a lot.  That tree has wisdom.  Okay, okay.  I apologize for going off the deep end in my admiration of the old oak, but a recent unfortunate event has made me think about our tree again.

I was pounding away at our computer the other day when Linda walked through the living room announcing that bad weather was on the way and that she was going to move the cars which were parked in front of our house which sometimes floods.  Of course I replied with one of my grunts never looking up from the computer screen.

As announced by Linda, a few minutes later a strong wind and rain made its appearance.  I glanced out the window next to the computer and mentally gave her a gold star for prognostication.

I continued working on the essay I was writing when I noticed some unusual movement out of the corner of my right eye.  I turned to my right and saw that a good sized hackberry tree had lost its grip on the earth beneath it and was leaning into our huge oak tree.  It looked as though it was hoping the big oak would save it.

I just grunted and resumed my typing.  It's hard to get me very excited.  A moment later I heard a series of sharp cracks which elicited a little more than a grunt from me.

“Holy moly guacamole!”

It was pretty obvious that the hackberry was busy trying to bring down the big oak and was making progress.

When the rain and wind halted, I did a quick assessment from my porch.  Not good.  Several of the oak's lower limbs which had given the old oak it's graceful shape which almost reached the ground were done for.

Now I must admit, I had a sinking feeling, but being a pragmatist, I began to wonder about who I could call to clean this mess up, and believe me it was a big, big mess.   I knew that I could find someone, but didn't just want anyone; after all, there is so much incompetence in the world today.  I didn't need an amateur: I needed a pro.

While I was mulling the possibilities, I posted a picture of the disaster on Facebook asking, “Anyone want to buy a slightly used tree?”

I didn't ask for help.  I didn't ask for recommendations of tree people.  I just tried to be humorous about a sickening situation.

That evening we received  a telephone call from Russell Bentke.  Russell retired from teaching Ag at Somerville High School.  His wife, Rhonda, is retired from being a Kindergarten teacher at the Elementary School.  Russell said that he would come over the following day with Rhonda and clean up the tree mess.  Linda tried to discourage him from attempting such a huge job, but he insisted.  Frankly, I thought that Russell was overestimating his own prowess.

When they arrived the next morning, because of the Corona Virus, they shewed us inside the house.  About six hour later there was no sign of the hackberry tree nor the broken limbs of the old oak.

Once Russell and Rhonda started working, our neighbor, Jose Ramirez, began loading limbs into Russell's  trailer; the neighbor kids, Josh Mensch and James Pawlak, came over to help; Tom Stone, a friend of Russell's contributed some work; Patrick Mantey, the owner of Mantey's Restaurant and Catering which is two stone throws (It used to be one stone throw.) away from our house, gave Russell and Rhonda a hand.

Linda and I will be forever grateful to these folks.

When all the debris was cleared, I was fearful of looking at the damaged old fellow.

I waited  a full day.  We went for one of our cat spotting trips and on the way back, I asked Linda to drive from Highway 36 toward our home and the tree.  I didn't faint.

It's definitely different, not the tree it once was, but then…neither am I.

I'll always miss the nice canopy it once provided which covered the entire from yard and kept me pretty well concealed while I sipped my coffee on the front porch.   I guess I'll have to learn to wave at folks as they pass by...darn the luck.