Those Thick-Barked Survivors

The Big Tree at Goose Island, Texas c. 1990

For years after being designated Texas’s State Champion Coastal Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) in 1966, the tree affectionately known as The Big Tree reigned in leafy glory at Goose Island State Park near Rockport. 

Dethroned in 2003 by the discovery of an even larger tree in Brazoria County — the San Bernard Oak on the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge — it still remains the second largest live oak in Texas, and one of the largest in the United States.

Thirty five feet in circumference and forty-four feet tall, the Big Tree is more than a thousand years old. It would have been only a sprout when Dirk III, Count of Holland, defeated Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, at the Battle of Vlaardingen, when Buckfast Abbey was founded in England, or when Aeddan ap Blegywryd, King of Gwynedd, passed on.

More recently, the giant oak survived an 1864 Civil War battle that destroyed the nearby town of Lamar, but most recently it did battle with Hurricane Harvey: a battle that left it battered, somewhat broken and stripped of leaves, but firmly rooted to its ground.

The Big Tree at Goose Island, Texas ~ September 5, 2017
(Texas Parks & Wildlife photo)

After hearing that smaller trees surrounding the Big Tree had been uprooted or shattered during the hurricane, a local fishing guide said, “Well, that’s why we call some people thick-barked. They’ve got what it takes to survive a storm.” Given the track record of a certain thick-barked oak in my own town, I fully expect that The Big Tree will recover. A few of you know the story, but it’s worth the re-telling.

Between the years 2000 and 2010, the town I call home grew from 45,874 residents to 83,560. Since then, the rate of growth has increased, and shows no sign of slowing. Homes, schools, and churches are flooding into the surrounding countryside. New businesses are multiplying, and traffic has become a critical issue.

Some years ago, plans to convert heavily traveled Louisiana Avenue from an open ditch rural roadway to a concrete-curbed, storm-sewered thoroughfare were progressing nicely, until some observant citizens realized an obstacle stood in the way of all that progress. The obstacle? An uncommon and historically significant tree: the Ghirardi Compton Oak.

Compton oaks are wonderful trees, a cross between overcup and live oaks. Tolerant of poor drainage, overcups will grow in nearly any condition but standing water. Live oaks also are site tolerant, but prefer better drainage. While live oaks produce masses of tasty acorns, the overcup’s developed a bit of a reputation as the “acorn of last resort” for hungry animals.

The relatively rare Comptons combine the best traits of both parents. Faster growth, larger, tastier acorns, and heavy production are typical of the Compton, although individual trees may favor either the live or overcup side of the family.

Compton oaks also happen to be extraordinary beautiful, with large, overspreading canopies. That makes them a nice fit for League City, where beautiful trees abound. The city’s live oak legacy began in 1854 when three interrelated families — the Butlers, Cowards and Perkins — traveled overland from Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, to the coastal prairies of Galveston County. Settling somewhat west of League City on Chigger Creek (now Clear Creek), they established cattle ranches and followed Acadian tradition by planting oaks from the bags of acorns they carried from Louisiana in their wagons.

The trees thrived. When George Washington Butler moved his ranch headquarters to town in the 1870s, he brought with him a multitude of young oaks that had been started on Chigger Creek. After the community renamed itself League City in the first decade of the 1900’s, Butler asked J.C. League to ship in some flat cars of live oaks to continue transforming the prairie. When the shipment arrived, any homeowner who couldn’t afford the price of $4 per tree was given one to plant in his yard. Today, many of those Butler Oaks survive: century-old trees that have become the symbol for League City.

While the early tree-planting was taking place, agriculture also began to flourish. Truck farming of strawberries, corn, cucumbers, beets, figs, tomatoes and grapefruit became the specialty of a group of Italian families rooted in Cercenasco, Italy: a town in the province of Turin.

Over a thirty year period, these Italians entered America through Ellis Island, then sailed for Galveston. Unlike many Italian immigrants who remained on Galveston Island, the Vaglienti, Arolfo, Daro, Cucco, Morratto, Bocco and Ghirardi families moved inland, establishing a strong, cohesive community.

While still a young man, Clarence Ghirardi used to sort canteloupe under the disputed Compton oak, which shaded land owned by his uncle. Over the years, Clarence’s son Michael and grandsons Eric and Drayce played beneath its limbs. When the need for construction arose, the Ghirardi family preferred to see the tree remain in place: perhaps with the street curving around it. Once that option proved unworkable, Clarence offered to donate a half-acre of his own land in order to provide a new home for the tree.

The land bordered a park already in development, but the plan required moving the tree about 1500 feet: an expensive and complex operation which offered no guarantees, but which at least might avoid turning the tree into firewood.

As you might imagine, there were months of commotion. Vigils were held, arguments grew heated, and the usual complaints about frivolous use of tax dollars were voiced. (As it turned out, no tax dollars were spent, thanks in part to a $10,000 contribution by Trees for Houston which helped ensure the project’s success.)

Eventually, the tree had its own Facebook page, and people who’d never heard of the Ghirardi family or a Compton oak were stopping by for a look.

Barry Ward, Executive Director of Trees for Houston, advocated tirelessly for the tree. “If everybody pitches in and cooperates and thinks about what we can do, the likelihood is you will save one of the most significant Compton oaks in North America. The question now is: Does the city council have the will to go ahead and make it happen?”

In the end, they did have that will. A bid from Hess Landscape Construction of Orange County, California for $197,500 was accepted. It was money well spent. When Erik Hess and his crew showed up and went to work, they not only impressed the town with their competence, they inspired a community as well. And when they put their 1,300 horsepower and 400,000 pounds of equipment to the test, the old Ghirardi oak groaned, creaked and complained – but she moved.

Moving a tree of such size involved far more than a bucket and a shovel. There were dimensions to be taken, soils to be tested, trenches to be dug, and on-site boxes to be built. As the great oak took on the appearance of a Texas-sized bonsai, it became the center of the town’s attention.

The machinery that made the move possible was less impressive than the people who made it work. There’s something beautiful and inspiring about watching a tightly-knit and competent team accomplish a goal. Hess’s team was remarkably disciplined, and so attuned to one another that unexpected problems never rose to the level of crisis.

When one of the primary cables linking the excavators and bulldozers snapped just before the tree was moved into its new hole, the problem-solving process seemed to be more nerve-wracking for observers than for those actually solving the problem.

After the move had been completed, I talked for few minutes with Erik Hess. “I’ll bet you’re going to sleep well tonight,” I said. Laughing, he acknowledged some relief and suggested that the whole team would be sleeping better.

Pondering the stressful nature of the move, he said the Marine Corps had taught him a good bit about how to deal with it. “You get around it not by focusing on the stress, but by paying attention to the challenge in front of you,” he said.

Clearly, he’d learned the lesson well. Only after I uploaded my photos from the day did I notice one small, ambiguous gesture that might have suggested stress – the lightly clenched fists in the photo below.

Beyond that, there was only what a woman watching nearby called artistry: a beautifully choreographed pas de deux of knowledge and experience that ended with accolades and applause.

After the oak had been replanted, mulched, irrigated, and fed, there’s wasn’t much action down at the park. Experts kept an eye on the tree, but watching a root system reestablish itself isn’t the most exciting thing in the world.

People did drive down Louisiana Avenue to look at the tree from the road, or parked and walked across the pasture to take a photo. “Wasn’t that wonderful?” they’d say to one another. “I’d love to see them move that tree again.”

Thanks to the same people who committed to saving a piece of their town’s legacy, they can see it again. And you can watch, too – just to see how wonderful it truly was.

Today, five years have passed since the tree was moved and replanted. Over the course of those years, there have been difficulties. Water accumulating beneath the tree caused part of the root system to die, weakening it and allowing for the emergence of Hypoxylon canker, a tree disease with no effective treatment. The installation of a drainage and irrigation system allowed the roots to begin growing back, and today, the canker is in retreat.

Experts generally agree that if a transplanted tree survives for five years, its chances for continued survival increase. Today, absent any extraordinary circumstances, the survival of the Ghirardi oak seems assured. A lovely park named for the family has grown up around the tree, filled with native plants, water gardens, walking paths, and an outdoor classroom.  In the midst of it all, the tree is thriving: producing its acorns, and standing sentinel amid the falling light.

The Ghirardi Oak silhouetted against high cirrus from Hurricane Irma ~ September 12,  2017

Best of all, it no longer stands alone. Another great oak known as the Moonshine Tree lives nearby. According to Michael Ghirardi, it grew outside a shack in which his grandfather, along with other relatives from the Sarracco and Arofolo clans, distilled a little home brew.

Perhaps, when the moon is full and the night grows silent, the wind-ravaged trees of the middle coast will hear the call of these companions:  “We have survived, and you will survive. We thick-barked ones always do.”

The Moonshine Tree ~ September 11, 2017

Comments always are welcome


129 thoughts on “Those Thick-Barked Survivors

  1. I love trees- plain and simple and especially oaks. This is quite a story and of course I very much like reading about nature, I am still trying to understand why the tree just had to be moved. It seems that city hall does not have all that much sense when it comes to preserving things of value. I really hope the tree continues to grow and put down deep roots.

    1. The road is a major artery, and needed to be improved and widened. There just wasn’t any way to design the road to go around the tree. Sometimes that’s possible, but now that the construction’s finished, I can see what the problem was.

      And, honestly? I like the tree in its new place, with other trees around it. The park, which serves to demonstrate different sorts of water gardens, swales, rooftop plantings, and so on, is very nice, too. I like that the tree was incorporated into something better, rather than just moved.

    1. It was, indeed. We were blessed with some equally committed and competent people during the recent flood. Jeff Lindner, the meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, said he got about seven hours’ sleep over those five days, and I believe it. No matter what time of day or night I checked his Twitter feed for information, there he was: answering questions, giving warnings, interpreting actions of the Corps of Engineers, and so on.

      Of course, you’ve had opportunity to see the same kind of teamwork during the fires. It’s impressive to see, but I hope predictions for the end of the week are on target, and a little less teamwork is necessary.

    1. Yes, and as with any flood, what’s happening with our sprawl has the potential to be as destructive to the environment as Harvey’s flooding was destructive to homes and businesses.

      What has caught peoples’ attention is that changes made after Hurricane Ike (raised bridges, more retention ponds, better drainage ditches) made a difference in this area, even with 40-plus inches of rain. Unfortunately, even those changes couldn’t make enough of a difference to prevent real misery.

  2. What a wonderful story, Linda. Thank you for sharing.

    I have a soft spot for beautiful old trees and was more than a little upset when a 2009(?) storm uprooted dozens of 200 year old trees in and around our Royal Botanic Gardens. Thankfully, many more trees have been planted to replace them, albeit much smaller than the originals. But, they will grow just as steadily.

    1. The loss of trees to storrms, or fire, is distressing because of the time required for the growth of new ones. The unnecessary loss of trees to construction or developers is even more distressing. I’d never park myself in a tree to keep the chainsaws away, but I understand the impulse.

      If only we could find a way to persuade people to go after the invasive species, and let the native trees be. When the park around the Moonshine and Ghirardi trees was developed, the arborists supervised the removal of non-native trees, giving the natives more light and room to grow.

  3. A great story of tree survival. That job looked very challenging indeed. We have many oak trees in our area, and one large one actually is growing half on land and half dipping its roots in a small river.

    Glad to read that so many people care about trees in your area, Linda. We have always planted trees wherever we have lived, both here in Australia and in Holland while living there. We planted several hundred poplars on both sides of the lane-way leading from the gate to our previous farmhouse.

    1. A lane lined with poplars would be beautiful. Lombardy poplars are often used here by landscapers, although out in the country thicker, non-deciduous trees generally are used as windbreaks.

      I enjoyed your mention of the tree that’s decided to dip its roots in the water. I’m always intrigued by the places that trees set up shop. Especially in rocky areas, they’ll cling to cliffs that seem completely inhospitable — but there they are. With a little thought, it’s easy to find examples of people who do the same thing, setting up shop in areas that seem completely inhospitable, and thriving there: the Outback, for example.

  4. It’s always refreshing to witness communities that support their local thick-barked sentinels, and it’s equally refreshing to know that you’re out there recording the changes and cheering for those survivors and sharing their stories…

    A friend told me of a ‘tornado’ that came thru their dragon fruit farm in the cloud forest and really ‘beat’ the plants… and later the plants produced a bumper crop! perhaps these trees will strengthen their roots during the dormant season and next year burst into a new renaissance of growth.

    1. The resiliance of plants generally is something to behold. One of our local nature centers has re-opened, and I stopped by on Sunday to see what I could see. The first thing I noticed was how many of the vining plants — clematis, trumpet vine, greenbrier — were not only climbing, but flowering. It was fun to see their tendrils reaching up, up, up — as though they were saying, “Get me out of this mess.”

      In the section where I was, the water had been about three or four feet deep — not at all hard to see, since it left a muddy residue behind. I took some photos which were ghastly. it’s been so long since I’ve been out with the camera that I’ve lost what touch I had. I need a few days of practice to remember how to take photos, and redevelop the strength in my hands and wrists.

      1. ‘up up up’ – get me out of this mess….
        What a great observation! Ditto for whatever factored into the explosion of bloom.. perhaps they’re saying, ‘hallelujah!’

        I can all but smell the funky odor of that muddy residue. I laughed about the ghastly photos – yes, sometimes we cannot make the camera replicate what we see! That happens to me a lot when trying to capture the way the light illuminates a person’s face. That’s where painting comes in handy – the photo makes a good reference, yet one taps into the memory and shows it with paint.

        I’m about to check out of the hostel and will be offline til the weekend or perhaps next week… may your skies be clear!

  5. Gorgeous tree and story telling. Well done video as well. I always love these tree-moving stories. And they did a great job.

    A few years ago a friend was living in Louisiana and the same scenario arose. A road was needed, but a beautiful old oak was in the way. My friend was on the committee. City council was involved. Lots of bickering. In the end I believe the tree got moved. I’ll have to contact her to find out more of the story.

    1. I’m wondering if it was the Youngsville Heritage Oak, which was scheduled to be cut down so that a temporary (!) construction bypass could be built. Every sort of group got involved, including some from nearby Lafayette, and eventually the tree was saved. I learned about it some years ago, because of George Rodrigue’s painting (shown at the linked page).

      Of course, the Youngsville tree stayed put, so your friend might have been involved with a different arborial conflict. If you find out, let me know.

  6. Heart-warming.
    I am glad the storm only stripped it bare, but its roots hung on.

    We have a town in Kent known as ‘Seven Oaks’. During the one and only hurricane to hit the UK, back in 1987, six of the seven oaks that gave the town its name, came down. For a while, it was jokingly called ‘One Oak’, until new oaks were re-planted. To be on the safe side they planted eight, just incase they didn’t all settle into their new home. Now they have nine healthy oaks!
    Whether a town ‘name change’ is being discussed, I have no idea!

    1. Redundancy is a wonderful thing, Sandi. There’s nothing like having a extra oak or two around, just in case. We’ve had to replace a few young oaks in my neighborhood over the past couple of years. They’re planted in a median, and drivers — possibly impaired — can’t keep from taking them out in the middle of the night.

      I think Seven Oaks should stick with their current name. Eventually, they’ll be back to seven, and all will be well — except for the poor trees, of course.

  7. What a tree-mendous story! :-)
    Sorry couldn’t resist:-)
    Seriously though very pleased the community pulled together for this project and that the tree has responded.
    In Melrose town one of the back roads divides for a majestic gum tree hundreds of years old. I’ll post a pic of it soon.

    1. Here’s what I need to know — is there a kookaburra sitting in that old gum tree? And is he laughing? I hope so — I’ve believed the song all these years.

      I’ll look forward to your photo of that gem of a tree. Dare I suggest it will be a tree-t?

  8. What an interesting read. I’m so happy there are people in the world who understand the value of trees and have the know how to do a project like this for those trees that deserve to be given a second home.

    1. Until recently, I wasn’t aware of “urban forestry” as a discipline — partly because it only began developing in the 1960s or so, and hasn’t had a particularly high profile. But more and more cities have professional arborists on staff, helping to protect the trees we have. And of course the expertise of people like Hess is invaluable.

      One reason the battle over the Ghirardi Oak was so important is that it got people talking about trees in general, and not just that particular tree. If we could convince people to stop planting invasive species and turn to natives instead, that would be a giant step forward.

    1. It’s a wonderful story, particularly since moving the tree wasn’t the story’s end. One of these days I’ll show some photos of its new home, and the way the park has been developed. There are some innovative and interesting projects there, and its simple beauty is appreciated by those who live around it.

      A side note: on the first July 4th after the tree was moved, a friend and I stopped by to see how it was doing. The temporary fence surrounding it had been draped with red, white, and blue bunting.

  9. I read this before going to sleep last night. What a great story and apparently, with a happy ending, as the tree is doing well. I’m always concerned when a large tree is moved, but trees are resilient and harbor lots of stored energy–as is witnessed by this tree’s survival. Kudos to those who moved it with grace and care and to you for sharing this story.

    1. I was trying to remember today whether the tree produced acorns the year after the move. I really don’t know, but there are plenty on it now, and its canopy has lost the terribly scraggly appearance it once had.

      I saw some bark had dropped when I was there to take these photos, but the latest report I could find, from a couple of years ago, said the disease was affecting only 9% of the limbs. It may have improved even more by now. I’ll have to look at the next City Council report. They always include an update on the tree as an agenda item — that really tickles me. It’s well-being hasn’t been turned over to a committee and forgotten.

  10. I haven’t been down there in awhile. I do remember all the trees, but never knew the story behind them. We have a huge Magnolia next to Lake Houston and it has made it through the storm. The lake used to lap up against it and a bulkhead was built to keep the lake away. It is heartening to know that people try to save historic trees.

    1. I’ve never seen the San Bernard oak. I’m anxious to visit it now, but the refuge won’t be open for a while. The county roads are open, but they’re waiting for the refuge roads to dry out, and for necessary repairs to be made before they open to the public.

      I see Mercer still is closed, too. That’s not surprising, but it’s still a reminder of how widespread the flooding was. Anahuac is closed, too, although the sanctuaries at High Island are open — if you can stand the mosquitos.

      Magnolias are such beautiful trees, especially when covered with blooms. I’m glad yours made it, and that it has some friends willing to help it survive, too.

    1. I’ve read some articles exploring plant-to-plant connections, and they’re fascinating. This is purely anecdotal, but I watched it happen. My mother had several African violets which refused to thrive. One day, she was ready to throw them out, and I asked her to give them to me. I’d never grown an African violet in my life, but it seemed like they deserved more than being tossed.

      She had distributed them around her apartment — one here, one there. When I brought them to my place, I put them all on the same metal plant stand: two shelves of violets, with their leaves touching. Within two weeks, they were perking up. Eventually, all bloomed — riotously. Mom was amazed to find she had pink, burgandy, lilac, and white violets: not just pots of green leaves.

      So — who knows? Probably no one, at least with certainty. But I have my suspicions.

  11. Linda, there are some humongous old oaks standing on abandoned homesites within view of where I sit right now. The last time I wandered thru, trespassing, the old house and barns had finally turned to soil themselves. But the old sheltering live oaks still gave off that sacredness of deep old growth woods… even though they weren’t.

    At one point in my life, I would take our dog and wander in those woods whenever I was feeling the pressures of the modern world. The peacefulness I would store up would carry me thru the next week or so. Then once again, I would call the dog and off we’d go to sit and soak in the peace.

    Too many of these old trees are biting the dust. Not just from “progress”, the effects of climate change are also taking a toll… It’s good to hear of the efforts made to save one for a change.

    1. People think of Louisiana as “the” place to see great, moss-draped oaks, but Brazoria County certainly can match anything in that state. One of the best trees I’ve found there is in East Columbia, very near the Bell’s Landing historical marker. But they’re all around — remnants of the old plantations, and the settlers’ love of beautiful trees.

      The Texas Forest Service has compiled a list of famous Texas trees. Some are dead now — even trees have a natural life span, or meet with misfortunes like lighting — but many still are alive. Wouldn’t it be fun to visit all the trees on the list, and learn the history that is bound to them?

      Of course, as you point out, it can be just as satisfying to visit a neighborhood grove, and sit a spell with it.

    1. Why, thank you! The real “bravos” belong to the City Council men and women who dug in their heels on behalf of the tree, and those fantastic tree movers who dug their way across the pasture with that tree in tow. I’m so glad you enjoyed the tale — it still warms a lot of hearts around here.

    1. Of course we’re not all bad. Granted, some people have greater or lesser tendecies toward bad behavior or hard-heartedness, but for the most part, there are a lot of good-hearted folks around who want to do good for others — even for a tree.

      As for ingenuity, the slogan of Hess Trees is “Doing what others say can’t be done, and doing it every day.” I remember what it was like in my first years as a varnisher to take on a job without the slightest clue how I was going to do what needed to be done, I suspect Hess has had that experience, too. The gallery of photos on the website is something to see. There’s one photo of Hess and another man looking up at who-knows-what with expressions that could be interpreted as, “Uhhhh… yeh. That’s going to work. Maybe.”

  12. I have never seen a large tree moved. I’ve seen big buildings moved and houses taken down the road to new sites. The teamwork and coordination of the heavy equipment was impressive. I liked how the lead machines reached out their shovels for a bite into the ground for an assist in pulling. The last few yards looked tough with a bit of a turn needed.

    Best wishes for continued health of that tree. That was fun to see.

    1. It was quite a process: not just the move itself, but all of the preparation. On Sunday morning, while they still were boxing the tree, this fellow brought his grandchildren to watch. And of course Mr. Ghirardi, who had donated the land, was there to supervise.

      I thought you might get a kick out of seeing these shackles, too. There is something fascinating about watching guys who know what they’re doing work with heavy equipment. While they were untangling boats after hurricane Ike, it was just as compelling.

      There’s a construction site theme park up near Dallas where you can operate heavy equipment. If I ever give in to the temptation, I’ll be sure and have someone along to take photos.

      1. It is fascinating to watch, I agree. The shackles were meant for serious work. I would bring my grandkids, too.

        I would love to do that theme park. It is fun to operate big stuff. Those are BIG stuff.

  13. What an amazing story! I am bowled over by what it took to carry out such an impressive project. I had no idea a tree that large could be moved.

    We have a real love for oak trees here. There were none originally until Forrest’s grandparents planted one in the backyard. From there, squirrels have planted dropped acorns. Just the last year Forrest and I caged off several planted in our pasture by squirrels (maybe our own squirrel kids!) for the future. Mostly, we hope our efforts will provide food for nature (the deer especially). And of course we have that lovely old, early 1900’s pecan orchard with more than 142 giants, producing varied types of pecan. I suppose we could literally be called tree huggers! We love them!

    1. It is amazing, isn’t it? I’m not certain that’s the largest tree they’ve moved — not that it matters. It certainly was large in terms of its importance to the town.

      It tickles me to think of your squirrels helping out around the place by planting trees for you. They probably don’t even demand overtime for working on weekends. The oaks tend to be slow growers, but as I’ve learned, the slower the growth, the longer the lifespan. I planted a camphor tree once that was about two feet tall when it went in the ground, and in two years it was up to the roof. Unfortunately, it won’t last nearly as long as an oak.

      Some of the river bottoms here have wonderful pecan trees, and a certain road I know in the hill country has six large trees, all in a row. More than a few pies have been made with pecans from those trees — you ought to have all you need if the crop’s good and the critters don’t get to them first.

  14. Linda, I agree with “Almost Iowa” – you’re a great storyteller, and this was an impressive feat to relate. And these are very beautiful trees.
    I grew up loving oak trees. There’s quite a variety around here – white, black, red, scarlet, pin, bur, swamp, etc. One of my grandmothers lived in the Genesee Valley of NY, where most farms on the river flats have huge old oaks, and this wasn’t an accident. A family named Wadsworth obtained a huge tract from the Seneca tribe after the Revolution, and then leased the land out to farmers, specifying that at least one oak had to remain per every two acres. I’d assumed that the Wadsworths planted these oaks, to help with their image as Olde English Country Squires, but some of these were “oak openings” – – a kind of savannah. These can occur naturally in NY and Ohio, but I think around here, they may have also been created by the natives, who’d periodically relocate their village, girdle some trees, and burn off the undergrowth, so they could raise corn, squash, etc. — the thick-barked oaks would survive. I don’t know for sure, but I figure the natives would leave the oaks, hickories, black walnuts, etc. as a food source.
    The Seneca signed over most of their land at the Treaty of Big Tree – that oak, on the banks of the Genesee, was a huge landmark in 1797, and lived until a flood got it in 1857, and they’ve still got a slice of it at the county museum, in its own little shed.

    1. There was a lot of treaty-signing going on under those trees. In Council Grove, Kansas, an 1825 treaty signed with the Osage under the so-called “Council Oak” opened up the Santa Fe trail. There’s not much of that tree left, either, but what’s there is protected from the weather and held together with metal bands.

      There was a haunting song we learned in sixth grade chorus that I just tried to find without success. The first verse was:

      “Dry brown oak leaves shiver in the woodland,
      not a bud or flower is seen.
      But instead of them, beaming merrily,
      shines the holly leaf, gay and green.”

      It was in a minor key, and never fails to come to mind as autumn approaches. It embedded the oak into my mind as the most romantic of trees, even though we were surrounded mostly by maple, elm, and various conifers. I think the pin oak might have been the most common, but I can’t be sure at this point.

      Whether planted or preserved, those early settlers certainly were intent on having their trees.You mentioned black walnut, hickory, and such — were there native fruit trees, too? Here in Texas, we have pawpaw, persimmon, and plum, and in the hill country there’s also a black cherry which grows in a limited area. I’ve had jelly made from its fruit, but it’s more work than I want to go to.

      1. I’m no expert,but I think the native people had blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, elderberries, fox grapes (pretty tart, but I actually like them), juneberries, and chokecherries. I learned something when I checked this – apparently persimmons and beach plum grow wild in the very southern part of the state, I never knew that. I like mulberries, but don’t think they’re native, not sure about currants. When Gen’l Washington sent a scorched earth expedition through the Iroquois territory, the soldiers were amazed at the wonderful apple and peach orchards (which they chopped down), but those were obtained from European settlers before the war. My parents have some pawpaw trees, but those are modern cold-hardy hybrids, not native.
        I took a crack at finding that song, no luck, but found a whole lot of other good autumn poems and songs I hadn’t known!

        1. An interesting side note: when I lived in Liberia, “paw-paw” was the local name for the papaya, which is quite a different fruit. We had pink, yellow, and orange-fleshed papayas, and some were as big as a small watermelon. They were delicious, and nothing like the ones in the grocery stores here. it’s one of the foods I really miss.

  15. The video is fascinating, but it must have been something special to have seen this live oak move to a new location. I enjoyed seeing these big Cats doing the heavy lifting, as Cat is practically in my back yard.

    My mom has a few live oaks in her yard in Gulfport, and I’ve long been enamored of them. The Spanish moss dripping from their branches, the lichen growing on their trunks, their lovely shape — all contribute to a very desirable tree.

    I’m glad this one was able to survive the move and thrive in its new home. Bet those Hurricane Harvey-hit trees are looking at it with new “eyes” and gaining hope, too!

    1. Seeing it “live” was quite an experience. And it wasn’t just the moving itself that was so interesting, but all the preparation. No matter when you went down to the tree, there would be a group of people hanging around, watching with the open-mouthed fascination of little kids.

      Like you, I’m a great fan of Spanish moss-draped oaks. I first saw them when I still was in grade school, down in Baton Rouge at my great-aunt’s house. Along with the lichen, ours can get ball moss, too — not nearly so attractive as Spanish moss — and some have what I think are the so-called resurrection ferns growing on their largest branches. Most of the time they’re brown and shriveled, but after good rains, they become lush and green again. Beautiful.

      Surviving and thriving: that’s what a lot of life comes down to. Finding the ways to do it is the trick! it’s great that there are people — and machinery — that could help this tree do it.

  16. I’m glad to hear that The Big Tree and the Compton Oak are doing well and that Harvey didn’t cause too much damage.

    I can easily imagine all the uproar at the suggestion of moving the Compton Oak. We went through something very much like that here when the Angel Oak on John’s island was threatened with encroaching development. There were months of protests, petitions, FB pages, editorials and just downright disgust at the plans for apartments, offices and shops that would be too close to the tree for comfort. Ultimately, enough acreage surrounding the tree was purchased that will protect it.

    1. I’m not sure I’ve seen photos of that tree before, Gué. If I had, I surely would remember it. It’s glorious, and the entire gallery of photos does it justice.

      The article you linked explains better than I did in a comment up above why it was so important to move the Ghirardi oak. This caught my attention, especially: “While the Angel Oak itself was not in danager of being felled, arborists cautioned that the forest around the tree protects its giant root system, provides shelter from storms, and affords it adequate moisture and drainage…it also filters harmful pollutants before they reach the trees roots, bark, and leaves.”

      Exactly. If the Ghirardi oak had been left in place, surrounded on all sides by concrete, it would have lived for a while, but I’m sure that I would have seen its demise.

      When Sandi came up with her question about bucket lists, I couldn’t think of a thing to add. Now? I just might put seeing this tree on my bucket list.

      1. Those ferns you see on the limbs in some of the photos are resurrection ferns. They turn brown and shrivel up in dry conditions and unfurl, turn green and lush after it rains or in high humidity conditions. A really cool little plant.

        A little trivia: Trees like oaks have a root system equal to, or slightly larger than, the spread of its canopy.

        I recall visiting it fairly frequently as a child. Dad sold tractors and farm equipment and had many customers on John’s Island. We’d ride out there on Sundays. (Remember those Sunday rides to anywhere or nowhere?)

        I have an old black and white picture of myself from the early 60’s, sitting astride one of the limbs with my maternal grandmother and my Dad standing by. Sitting on or climbing the Angel Oak is now highly discouraged or even outright forbidden. It has been a while since I’ve been out there.

        1. I knew I’d mentioned the resurrection ferns somewhere, and it’s in the comment right above. I know of two places around here where they can be seen. One’s a large oak at the Armand Bayou nature center, and the other is a group of trees on the Varner-Hogg plantation. I’m sure there are others, but those are the ones I’ve come across.

          I do remember those Sunday rides. A friend and I were talking about them last weekend. We’d go out to check out the corn and bean crops, or go by the grange hall to see what was happening. Then, there would be a stop for an ice cream cone before we went home. Good times!

  17. I like it when the tree wins.

    This epic tree moving reminded me of the story “Moon on the Hills” in this chapbook.
    You might like to give it a read. It’s the second story in the chapbook. It’s also about the moving of a tree called Jelaza Kazone. You might like the other story, too.

    (For more about this particular tree, see here. )

    1. I’d read those stories just to find out how a tree got a name like “Jelaza Kazone.” In fact, I will read them, just for fun. If I can find my Kindle and get its battery charged, they’re inexpensive enough to indulge.

      I like it when the trees win, too. Part of the reason they’re so often able to endure is the theme of this old Tanya Tucker song that I really do enjoy. Bending is part of a tree’s nature. We should take some lessons.

    1. They could tell tales, indeed. The Texas Forest Service has compiled a list of large, famous, or historic trees, and they’ve seen it all: treaties, hangings, battles, family strife. Some of the most famous are dead and gone now — trees have a lifespan, too. But many remain, just as they surely do in your area. They’re wonderful companions.

  18. Oh Linda, what a fabulous story! I had already vacated Houston for the most part by this time and this is the first I have heard of moving this beautiful tree. Since I believe trees are sentient, along with just about all life, I am heartened that your community spent the necessary funds to save it.

    1. I’m glad to have shared the story with you, Ellen. The move got plenty of local (League City) publicity, and it made the Chronicle from time to time, but I’m not sure it made news around the state. In its old location, no one really paid it any mind. Now that it’s part of a lovely park that’s used on a regular basis, it’s appreciated in a new way, and will be for years to come.

  19. What an amazing story! I’m surprised anyone could have believed a dream so big that it would be possible to do it! Whoever started the project sure had a “I think I can” attitude. Someplace it had to change to a “We can do it.”

    1. I know there were doubts about the feasibility of moving it right up to the moment the machinery started to push and pull the tree across the pasture. But everything (mostly) worked as planned, and the move itself went more quickly than anyone had anticipated.

      Schools used the experience as a case study in their math classes — perhaps even engineering courses at various nearby colleges took note. Sometimes brute strength will get a job done, but in this case the planning had to be a little more sophisticated. It was a joy to watch the company that did the work enjoy the fruits of their labor.

  20. This is really special. I linked this to a friend of mine in NE WI who is a life long forester.

    Speaking of oaks, our acorn crop this year is like artillery! Squirrels and chipmunks are running marathons all day long looking for any place and every place to store supplies!

    1. Thanks for sharing it, Martha. It is a special story — a continuing story that only improves with the passage of time. In the beginning, the thought of taking stock after five years seemed impossibly far away. But now, with five years behind us, the chances for continued survival are better than ever before.

      You’ll be interested in this. Hess and his crew didn’t just move the tree and then walk away. Hess continued to come back on a regular basis to evaluate the tree’s progress. In the beginning, he was coming every week or two and checking everything from moisture levels to the appearance of the bark. During the Hypoxylon scare, he was involved with local arborists and others who worked at improving the general health of the tree so it could shake off the disease.

      And, from the February, 2017 City Council minutes, there’s this:

      “Ghirardi Oak Update: City Arborist Heather McKnight reports the following from her biweekly inspections to the tree with Parks Operations Superintendent Rusty Bolen: The tree is in full Spring pollination mode with budding and blooming evenly throughout the canopy. ArborCare has already performed Spring fertilization and fungicide applications. City staff spot treated ant mounds, made minor irrigation repairs, and backfilled areas of settling with mulch.”

      I love that this tree is regularly on the Council agenda.

    1. Have you read “The Star Thrower,” by Loren Eiseley? It’s a story that’s been revised and sentimentalized and popularized, but it’s never left me since I read it. The point never is simple with Eiseley, which may explain why it’s been simplified by others. In short, it always is the individual who matters in the end: one starfish, one tree, one person. One of these days, I’ll write about one turtle, and a bit more about Eiseley.

      The essay is about sixteen pages, but there’s an excerpt from it here that you may enjoy. (I tried to find a version without the purple highlighting, but perfection is hard to come by.)

        1. Eiseley doesn’t get much publicity these days, but his writing about the natural world is something to behold. Any of his books is worthwhile. I came to him through an essay titled “The Talking Cat,” which was online at one point, but which has been removed. Too bad. It’s one that brings me to tears every time, too, even though it has a happy ending.

          We used to sing “Green Grow the Rushes, O” at summer camp. I wonder how many of those quite wonderful songs still are sung? Many, I hope.

          1. I hope they are not forgotten, even if their original meanings are lost. I googled The Talking Cat and the link I was given was All the Strange Hours. I opened the link and read a part of an introduction to the book; it spoke to my heart. I am wondering now what Eiseley would have made of the Monkey selfie case

            1. I know what he would think of it, but I don’t know quite how to put it into words. Let’s just say he’d not be on the PETA side. The best I can do is offer you a piece of his on frogs, which will give you a taste of Eiseley at his best. It’s a bit of a cross between Edward Gorey and a 12th century mystic, but it’s compelling: albeit just a little unsettling.

              The first thing I have to do is figure out how to link to a pdf document. Once I can do that, I’ll add the link here.

            2. I re-read the piece last night, too, and my response was the same as it’s always been: discomfited, and a little wary. But that’s part of Eiseley’s genius. He can look through the surface of things to see unimaginable possibilities in the natural world. In Across The Frontiers, Werner Heisenberg wrote, “Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.” Eiseley’s point is the same, except he makes it in essays and stories.

  21. That was truly inspirational, Linda. Good for League City! Peggy’s sister, Jane, has been instrumental in protecting the large Valley Oaks of Sacramento. In fact, she has a beauty growing in her front yard. Our oaks are small white oaks but are still beautiful. We have over a hundred growing on our property. This year they have a bounteous acorn crop and everyone is getting in on the feast, from acorn woodpeckers to the deer. It’s fun to watch the deer get up on their hind legs to go after the goodies. And I have been amused to watch ground squirrels become ‘tree squirrels’ as the make their way up to the perilous heights! –Curt

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Curt. You certainly know your trees, and know how to keep them happy. Now I’m wondering if you’re the one who wrote about a tree (or trees) in California that were under assault by someone. I vaguely remember reading about people who surrounded a tree, or sat in it, and otherwise made clear their opposition to whatever was going to happen to it (or them).

      I had to laugh when I glanced at your latest Burning Man post and saw that beautiful “tree” out in the middle of the desert. It certainly has the look of a nice, old oak — and offered up some lovely shade, too.

      I’ve heard reports from Wisconsin, Illinois, and the Texas hill country of bountiful acorn crops this year. Now, you’ve added your place to the list. I’ve always assumed that the “synchronous production of abundant acorns” in mast years was limited to a given region, but now I wonder if the phenomenon might be more widespread.

      In any event, you’ll have plenty of animal antics to enjoy as the season wears on.

      1. It wasn’t me, Linda. But Earth First likes to tree sit, climb high up in a tree and sit in it to discourage loggers from cutting it down. The tactic has often been used for old growth redwoods and other virgin stands of timber. In a similar way, I once had a friend, Mark Dubois, chain himself to a rock in a river bed to discourage the Corps of Engineers from building a dam!
        People were climbing in it when I went back at night. There were other ‘trees’ out on the Playa that I will feature, but none as realistic.
        It seems like every three or four years we have an abundant crop. The Native Americans in California’s coastal mountains depended on the acorns as a major source of food. In years of abundance they fed well! When the crop failed, they scrambled to survive. –Curt

    1. How about that? You saw our tree, and I saw your Key deer, and both of us saw them as symbols of resilience.

      Nature’s full of signs of hope. After a week of Harvey’s rains, when the sun finally appeared just at sunset, people were calling one another and saying, “Look! It’s the sun!” For all our sophistication, we’re still connected to the world in some primal ways.

  22. Once again, Linda, you weave a fascinating story, beautifully illustrated that tells far more than the story of the tree, but of the town and people who care about it so very much. As you know, it hurts me to see trees damaged or removed, hurts like having part of myself removed. So I have huge respect for League City making the effort to save this. It’s stunning.

    1. Jeanie, you know I was thinking about your lake cottage neighbors while I wrote this — and none too kindly, I might add. I’ve wondered from time to time what could have led them to act as they did. It’s a mystery — although there are people so detached from the natural world they never give it a thought. My only hope is that they decide to sell at some time in the future and can’t, because everyone wants a wooded lot.

      In the meantime, our trees are thriving. League City has so much respect for its trees that an image of a spreading oak is even on our manhole covers. There used to be a photo online, but I can’t find it now. I ought to go out and find one of the covers and photograph it. They really are beautifully detailed, and a very nice addition to the city.

  23. I do remember when you wrote about this. I’m so happy to hear that it’s still standing. More than a thousand years old, that is something. Some of us could use thicker bark.

    1. When I was growing up in Iowa, the expression people used was “a thicker hide,” but the meaning was the same: toughen up a little, and weather those storms.

      Can you believe five years has passed since the tree was moved. It’s a little unnerving how fast time is passing. You’re going to have to post another pic or two of the grands, before they’re ready to graduate from high school. I suspect they’re growing like trees, too.

  24. What a wonderful story, and well-reported, I might add. We”ve an ancient sycamore in our neighborhood, at least a hundred years old, next to a newer condo complex. The complaint is that the tree is too “dirty” to keep around. Luckily, our town’s “tree man” knows good old, historical wood when he sees it. He’s a partisan for not removing it. We’ve also got three huge evergreens on the west side of our home that are 100+ years old. Lord know, they’re not the cleanest trees with their long needles shed annually, but there is no way, short of a windstorm and old age that those old giants are coming down. Our tree guy is with us on this one, too. Thank goodness for tree partisans.

    1. Down here, we talk about “trash trees,” and the sycamore’s among them, along with the catalpa and the mulberry. One of our biggest problem trees is the Chinese tallow. People love it because it produces fall color for us, but it’s an invasive bully that wreaks havoc on everything in sight.

      Our live oaks shed leaves too, but not in the fall. They drop in early spring, as new leaves are coming on. The most dramatic drop here is the needles from the cypress.They’re just starting to turn now, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for a sharp frost once they’re ready to fall. If conditions are just right, a tree will drop all of its leaves in a single day. I can leave for work seeing fully-leaved trees, and by the time I come home, the branches are bare. Your tree guy would love it.

      Thanks for the kind words. This is the sort of reporting that’s fun to do.

      1. Side note about mulberry trees. We had a bike come into the bicycle shop at which I work part time, and I had the dickens of a time getting a tar-like substance off of the paint finish on the bottom of the bike. The owner said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s just mulberries.” And, to think, I’ll eat those things…

  25. My first reaction seeing the initial photo was — what a magnificent looking tree. Then I was mesmerized by the story. Moving the G. tree was incredible, but how startling to see the ravages of Harvey — but still standing. What a powerful message the mighty oak and companion still standing send as your words so movingly described.

    1. Texas certainly has an abundance of great trees, and some bask in a great deal of public afffection and regard. With so much destruction around Rockport and Fulton after Harvey, people seemed almost embarassed to be asking about a tree, but ask they did. We all wanted to know how it fared, and we all felt better once the photos were posted.

      In terms of public affection, the Ghirardi oak is right up there. I once heard this exchange in a parking lot: “Where are you guys going?” “We’re headed over to visit the big tree at the park on Louisiana.” Visiting the tree’s a little like stopping by to see Grandma — you hope for cookies, but you’d do it anyway, just because.

  26. Wow, it’s amazing that a huge oak tree can be moved. It’s wonderful to hear that it’s survived 5 years, even if there were some problems. Hopefully it will have a long future.

    1. There were a lot of us standing around with open mouths, astonished that someone was going to attempt it, and then even more astonished that it worked. I hardly can believe that five years has passed, but it has, and the tree seems to be well on its way toward another five, and much more. It’s not only a beautiful tree, it’s a wonderful symbol of what a community can do in spite of disagreements.

    1. That’s one reason the slogan of the Hess Tree Company is so apropos. They say, “We Do What They Say Can’t Be Done — And We Do It Every Day.” I’d say they certainly proved that with the Ghirardi tree, and the level of commitment to caring for the tree even after the move, to be sure it survived, was remarkable. They’ve moved smaller trees, and larger trees, and it seems that in every case they live up to their commitment. That’s as admirable as the mechanics of the move.

  27. This was an amazing and beautiful story, Linda! Thank you for writing it. It contained all of my favorite things: people coming together to do something amazing, Texas can-do spirit, saving something beautiful that Nature made, the fascination of a “How It’s Made” episode, and, of course, great writing.

    I can’t believe I live in Texas and haven’t heard of this before now. Thank you for sharing it with the world!

    1. Well, Texas is a big state, and it’s a long way up to your part of it. I think I remember that there was mention of this in the Austin press, and of course Houston’s, but a tree-moving in a relatively small town isn’t going to resonate far and wide.

      In any event, I’m glad I was the one to tell you about it, and I’m glad you enjoyed the story. All of those favorite things you listed are on my favorites list, too. They were in evidence during Harvey, of course, but the episode with the tree wasn’t quite so fraught.

      If you’re a real fan of “How It’s Made” and some of the technical aspects of this story, I have to ask: do you know about the construction site theme park in your neck of the woods? How much fun would it be to give that place a whirl?

      1. Hi again, Linda! Yes, I’ve heard about it and plan to go someday. They actually stole my idea! Lol! I remember telling some friends of mine about 12 or 15 years ago that I was going to buy a bunch of construction equipment, put it out on some abandoned land way out in the middle of nowhere, and charge people to come out and “play” on it. Unfortunately, I never got up off my duff and did it, and someone beat me to the punch. I’ll have to visit it someday and see what it’s like.

  28. I had no idea they moved trees that size! It really speaks to the tenacity of nature (and the workers!) that such a feat is possible. Of course, all of the technology that allows the identification of a canker and a cure for the cause of its source is no small factor. All in all, a fascinating story in these days of throw away this and that!

    1. Tenacity, and imagination. Of course, this kind of large project has been going on since the pyramids. After the hurricane of 1900, Galveston residents looked at one another and said, “Sure. Let’ raise the entire city several feet, put some slurry beneath the buildings, and build a seawall. Then, we’ll be ready for the next one.” And so they did.

      You’re right that science has certainly contributed to the success of these projects, though. Identifying the cause of the tree’s decline post-transplant wasn’t an easy task, and neither was the cure. But in the end, science joined imagination, and the project succeeded.

      I laughed at your comment about our throw-away society. It’s true that we live our lives that way, and a reminder that tossing isn’t always necessary is good. Let’s hope no one ever suggests clear-cutting is “decluttering,” or our forests will be lost.

  29. Lovely, what a wonderful story. I remember my grandparents’ enormous elm being taken down because of Dutch elm disease, in upstate New York. The sections of trunk lying on their sides were taller than I was.

    1. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a large, mature elm — at least, not since I’ve started paying attention to trees. I know that we had Chinese elms in our front yard when I was growing up, but they were relatively small, and never would have provided the kind of experience you had. I went to look at some famous elm trees (so impressive!) and learned in the process that disease-resistant cultivars have been developed that will make elms part of our landscapes again.

  30. That is quite amazing – to have moved a huge, old tree, and to have it survive in its new home. Here we’ve had very old trees involved in similar construction plans – and there’s one a few miles from us that had a car park built round it (which will eventually, probably, harm its roots), but our oldest (a Yew tree) kind of beats yours in terms of age and is now having a sex change!

    1. That’s a fascinating article. I knew that some plants have both male and female properties, but I’d never heard of a tree changing in that way. I especially enjoyed the thought of that hedge, that will preserve the genetic heritage of so many famous trees.

      Even more fun was the ending of the article, which says, “The area immediately surrounding Fortingall is thought to have been an Iron Age centre with the tree at its focus.” I thought at once of Longfellow’s poem, “The Village Blacksmith.” The first stanza is:

      Under a spreading chestnut-tree
      The village smithy stands;
      The smith, a mighty man is he,
      With large and sinewy hands;
      And the muscles of his brawny arms
      Are strong as iron bands.

      We’re well past village blacksmiths now, but there still are places where a shade tree mechanic can thrive.

  31. The thought of a 1000 year old tree boggles the mind. So glad it survived the storm. The idea of tree-movers moving a tree of the size of the Compton Oak boggles the mind as well, though I think I may have missed something, for I couldn’t really discern why the tree had to be moved. I’m glad it survived (or at least seems likely to do so).

    1. In a moment of panic, I wondered if I’d forgotten to add some detail about why the tree had to be moved. But, no. Here’s the paragraph:

      “Some years ago, plans to convert heavily traveled Louisiana Avenue from an open ditch rural roadway to a concrete-curbed, storm-sewered thoroughfare were progressing nicely until some observant citizens realized an obstacle stood in the way of all that progress. The obstacle? An uncommon and historically significant tree: the Ghirardi Compton Oak.”

      It was the street improvement project that set all this in motion. The engineers said there was no way to go around the tree, so the chainsaw brigade was ready to roll. Then, led by a single council member, the opposition took root, and the rest, as they say, is history.

      And it is wonderful to see it surviving, especially in tandem with its friend, the Moonshine Tree. There are rumors of whiskey libations being poured, but I only half-believe that.

  32. Linda, I really enjoyed this post about the tales of two oaks and their survival. A feel good story of bark and grit. Thank you for providing the photographs of each tree. Wow. Did the Goose Tree get battered or what???

    I am lucky to live among gigantic oaks whose trunks are enormous. Several are leaning mightily. We’ve had weight taken off many of them, trying to prevent that sound we have heard several times–the sound of a tree falling, finally, to ground.

    1. Perhaps we could say that the trees’ bark is tougher than a hurricane’s bite. In some cases, that’s absolutely true. I’m glad that Texas Parks and Wildlife was thoughtful enough to take and post the photo of the Goose Island tree, and I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the photos.

      One of the annual pre-hurricane season rituals here is the trimming of the trees. Most people have come to understand that opening up the canopy, getting rid of dead limbs, and addressing any disease issues will prevent a good bit of tree loss. Of course, that’s more helpful when wind is the only issue. When substantial rains soften the ground before the wind’s arrival, that sound of falling trees is ours, too.

      Speaking of trees, how are the olives doing?

      1. Our olive trees are doing great. The 6 that went down in the January storm are all, but one which died, staked up and loaded with olives. We had a “near miss” yesterday when to our surprise, we discovered a buck with his girls in our lower meadow heading for the olive bar. What a comical scene with my husband driving around on the gator and mini-me waving them out the two open gates. The buck went out through a small gate in the orchard; several of the does must have gotten out the way they got in…and that is the mystery that MUST be solved. Whew….close one. I’ll send you a bottle this year if the harvest goes through as planned.

        1. I’ve heard of deer eating everything from gardenias to rutabagas, but I must confess I never expected them to go for olives. I hope you find their secret route into the garden of olive eatin’, and don’t have to resort to more serious means of control.

    1. There are people here who are really, truly attached to their trees. And even people who don’t know a pine tree from a maple got caught up in the excitement. I suppose there were some who wished the effort would fail, just so they could say, “I told you so,” — but they were smart enough to keep their opinion to themselves.

    1. It’s wonderful to be able to save something from the past. There’s a saying here that goes, “You can’t make an old friend.” The suggestion, of course, is that after a certain point in life, we’ll won’t be around long enough to become friends with someone, then know them for twenty or thirty or more years. In the same way, we can’t grow an old tree. Once the old ones are cut, we’ll never see their like — even if generations to come do have that chance. Far better to save what we have, when we can.

    1. There won’t be any literal basking beneath it at this point, since a sturdy yet attractive fence has been built around it to protect not only the tree but also the pump and irrigation system that have been installed. No matter: it’s just as lovely from a few feet away, and certainly worthy of admiration.

      1. There’s a lovely tree overlooking a pastoral scene in Ecuador. Called El Lechero, it’s an ‘ancestral’ tree on a very peaceful site overlooking Lago San Pablo. It now has a protective fence all the way around it, and to me, it now seems sad – robbed of the connection with people who cherish its presence….

        Your tree is probably grateful for every attempt to preserve its life!

        1. In a world where too many people want to connect with nature by carving their initials, stealing souvenirs, or tearing up installations just for the heck of it, a fence isn’t always a bad idea. No fence in the world can stop someone from admiring a wonderful old tree.

  33. It is always a good story – and perfect for these times. Love the picture of the Sept 12the sky behind the branch.
    You worry about the big old ones in the storms – probably needlessly. I have a landscape friend who manages big installations who says that trees need a good shake once in a while – so get rid of the thin unnecessary branches and lazy foliage. A good wind shakes them awake and to attention.
    Wonder if that’s true with people too?

    1. Have you been over to the park recently? I was impressed by the water gardens and the variety of native plants. It was nice to see people there, too. There were a couple of familes with little ones, and one couple was having photos taken with their baby in the grasses north of the tree. They’re certainly maintaining it well, and I didn’t feel like the playground equipment was particularly distracting. It’s well positioned to keep the kids a bit on the fringe, away from the gardens.

      Sometimes shaking people awake, or finding a way to get their attention, is necessary. I grew up hearing that the first thing you do with a recalcitrant mule is give him a whack with a 2’x4′ to get his attention. Of course they were speaking metaphorically, but sometimes the use of even a metaphorical 2’x4′ is just the ticket.

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