OK, I realize I am probably breaking some silly rule about posting a Friday thing on Wednesday. But, I had this thing ready today and decided I just won't wait until Friday. Who knows, I may get hit by a truck on Thursday and it will never be posted. Not that that would be any great loss, but, I just decided to go ahead and post the thing.
The Lone Oak Tree in the Meadow
The old Massey Ferguson tractor chugged, coughed, and shuddered to a stop. The old man and young boy climbed down from the tractor. They stood in the middle of a forty-acre meadow. For years the old man had plowed, planted and harvested crops from this field. The two boys, one old and one very young, walked up to the lone oak tree standing in the meadow.
“See this old tree?” The old man began. “I’ve been plowing around this old tree nigh on forty years. I was just a young man when I first began cultivating this land. My daddy plowed it before me. This tree was a strong old tree during his days. Look at it, Danny; it’s still a strong old tree.”
Dan looked closely at the old tree. It was quite a tree. He suspected he could not reach around it; its circumference was just too great. However, he noticed that it grew somewhat irregularly, as if one side was bigger than the other, giving it a somewhat lopsided appearance.
The old man continued. “I see you notice it isn’t quite symmetrical; it’s kinda lopsided. Well that happened when I was just a boy. One stormy summer day it was struck by lightning. You see, it’s the only thing of substance growing in this field, and when the lightning came it was a prime target. We thought it would die from the trauma of being struck by lightning. But it didn’t. It pulled through. However, it grew a little retarded on that one side for a while. That’s what gives it that lopsided look.”
Danny walked to the tree and ran his hand across the trunk, tracing the remnant of the scar. He noticed some initials notched into the trunk; they read “JB.” He traced his finger over the indentions left by the carving, turned to his grandfather and asked, “’JB’, are those your initials, Grandpa?”
The old man chuckled and replied, “Yep, those are my initials. My dad brought me to this tree almost sixty years ago. He told me a story of how he had first seen this tree and impressed on me the strength and majesty of the tree. On that day he gave me a pocket-knife and told be to carve my initials into the trunk. I did. If you look closely you can see some other initials there. His are there and so are your dad’s.”
Dan examined the tree closely and soon found the ancient notched initials of his father and his father’s grandpa. The realization that generations of his family were forever tied to the majestic oak standing in the meadow impressed Dan and filled him with a sense of awe.
Dan cautiously asked, “Grandpa, do you suppose I can put my initials there someday?”
The old man chuckled again, “That’s why we are here, son. Today is your turn to join with this old tree. It’s a good old tree, Danny. It’s watched out over this meadow for over a hundred years. It’s withstood storms and lightning; and it’s graciously permitted the men of this family to mark its trunk with our initials. I like to think it’s sorta proud of our marks. I guess, in a way, it means it’s part of our family and we are part of it.”
“It’s just a tree, Grandpa.”
The old man smiled broadly and responded, “That’s true; it’s just a tree. But there is more here than just wood and leaves. There’s a spirit in this place, in this tree. I can’t explain it but there is more than just an old tree here. History is here, Danny. The vitality of life is here. There is something about this old tree that is enduring. Like I said, I can’t explain it; you just gotta feel it.”
Danny watched his grandpa’s eyes as he spoke to him. They seemed to twinkle and mist up, as he spoke of the old tree. He decided there indeed was something special about the tree. He didn’t quite understand all his grandpa was saying, but he trusted his grandpa and believed the tree was special, especially if his grandpa said so.
“So, can I carve my initials in the tree now?”
“That’s why we are here.”
The old man reached into his pocket and pulled out a new pocket-knife. He opened the main blade and handed it to his grandson.
“This is a brand new pocket-knife. It’s my gift to you. Use it to carve your initials into the tree.”
The old man sat down on the ground and leaned against the tractor tire. He would wait there in its shade as the young boy carved his artwork into the trunk of the tree. Eventually they would leave this spot, after Danny was finished and another generation had tied itself to the spirit of the old tree in the meadow.
Years later on another summer morning, Dan pulled up to the curb in the subdivision. He parked next to the little park, which was his intended destination.
“Okay, Zack, we’re here,” Dan quietly confirmed. “You can get out, now.”
Zack closed the door behind him and surveyed the little park, as he stood on the grass next to the curb. Houses backed up to the borders of the park and a grass trail led to other destinations. Zack considered there was nothing outstanding about this park; there was only a park bench and a big old tree standing in the middle.
“There’s nothing but an old tree.” Zack stated disappointedly. “There’s not even some monkey-bars.”
Dan looked around the park and smiled as he replied, “True, it is a little sparse as far as parks go. But it does have a tree and a bench.”
“But, what good is that?” Zack protested.
Just as his grandpa had done many years ago, Dan chuckled as he answered. “Well, to some people this park may not seem very special; but, it is. Why don’t we walk up to the tree and find out what makes it special.”
The two boys, one old and one very young, approached the grand old oak. As they walked, Dan recounted an old story told to the young men in his family. It was about an old oak tree and initials carved into its trunk. Fifty feet from the tree, Zack broke from his grandfather and ran up to the tree. Dan watched him examine the tree, brushing his hands across the trunk, finding the initials of his father, grandfather and the other men before him.
As Dan neared the tree, Zack turned and asked, “But, how can this be, Grandpa? I thought this tree was in the meadow? There’s houses and other trees all around it.”
Dan glanced knowingly around the area. It was true. The subdivision was densely populated with families on small lots with large two story houses. Each yard contained trees and shrubs required by the deed restrictions. This was no longer a meadow. It was an urban forest and in the midst of it the ancient old tree stood vigil over its territory, changed but its territory, nonetheless.
“Years ago,” Dan began his explanation, “times were hard on our family. I had to sell the meadow that my father and his father had farmed for so many years. A developer wanted to buy the land to build this subdivision that we are standing in.”
Zack looked around him and then at the old tree. “But, what about the old tree? How come a house isn’t built where that old tree is?”
Dan grinned as he continued, “Well, that was part of the deal. I’d only sell the land if they reserved one acre and this old tree. If this tree were harmed, they’d have to pay me double.” Dan chuckled, “You should have seen them baby and protect this old tree during construction.”
“You mean, you saved this old tree?” Zack smiled as he asked.
“Oh, I suppose so.” Dan responded, as he turned his attention to the tree. He reached out his hand and drew it across the surface of the bark; he found the initial of his grandfather and traced the letters with his finger. It seemed as if his eyes twinkled as they misted with secret tears. For a moment he was lost in his memories, standing next to the old tree carving his initials there while his grandpa leaned against the old tractor’s wheel.
“Grandpa? Grandpa?” Zack waited for Dan to return to him.
Dan smiled down at his grandson, “Yes, Zack.”
“Grandpa, will I ever get to put my initials into the tree? I mean, it doesn’t belong to us now.”
“Well, that’s a funny thing,” Dan began. “You see, part of the contract for this property said that our family had a right to initial that tree as long as it was still standing here. The deed restrictions also have a clause that protects this old tree and maintains it if necessary. I had them really shaking their heads when they included that tree in the sales agreement. So, not only do you get to initial the tree, Zack, it’s your legal right to do so.”
“Wow,” the little boy grinned broadly, “This ole tree is kinda special; isn’t it Grandpa.”
“Sure enough,” Dan confirmed, “pretty special.”
He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small pocket-knife. “Years ago my granddad gave me this pocket-knife on the day I initialed the tree. I’m going to give it to you today. It’s your turn, Zack.”
Dan opened the main blade and handed the knife to Zack, who took it reverently. He then walked over to the bench and sat down, while Zack approached the tree, lost in the wonderment of what he was about to do. Dan smiled and sighed; he knew the feeling.