Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 15, 2004

Memories of a cedar

It's funny how a person can become attached to a tree. I'm not a tree hugger and I don't feel the need to protect every one from the ax or chain saw. But I feel a little sad when a tree that I've grown up with or that I've gotten older with has to be removed. Trees make us think of what things were like when they - and we - were young.

I was reminded of this when Art's cousin Claudia recently told us that a large dying hemlock in her yard had to be taken down. It was close to her house in Wisconsin's North Woods and she and her husband Karl were worried that a big wind would prove disastrous. Claudia said it was one of her favorite trees. The tree removal workers told them that the rings on its stump indicated it was at least 70 years old. It would have been a seedling when Claudia and her parents first vacationed on the lake in the 1930s.

My parents had to have an old cedar tree taken down on their farm about 20 years ago. Lightning, temperature extremes and wind had taken their toll over the years, and the branches were hanging dangerously low over their roof.

The cedar was one of several that my grandfather Robert Freeland had planted with his mother, my great-grandmother Mary Hillyer Freeland, in the early 1900s.

The tree shaded the screened front porch of Grandpa and Grandma's house when the oppressive summer sun beat down. As a child, I would lie down on the porch swing, and eventually the rhythmic squeaking of the swing and the gentle sound of the chains clinking against each other would lull me to sleep.

I've always liked the fragrance of cedar wood, and I wonder if it has anything to do with those early memories.

My first husband and I were married just south of the cedar in September 1979. About 100 family members and friends witnessed our wedding as we held hands and said our vows in the shade of its branches.

The tree lasted just a few years after that. Mom and Dad had a small cedar chest made from its wood, and they also had cedar clocks made for themselves, Dad's two brothers, and each of us three kids. Mine has been hanging in my house for the 20 years since it was made.

Three years ago the folks gave miniature boxes made of the remaining cedar wood to the three of us and each of our children - their six grandchildren. Mom included a note inside each box. She wrote, "This chest is a keepsake from the cedar tree that grew on the Freeland farm."

Every time I open it, I breathe in its pungent cedar scent.

My grandpa and great-grandmother never would have imagined that nearly a century after they planted the cedar, it would still be giving pleasure to their descendants. Five generations of Freelands enjoyed it when it was standing and many of us are still enjoying what remains.

Claudia and Karl's old hemlock made them reflect a bit, too. Claudia and Art's Grandfather Edgar Vaughan had been a lumberjack, and Claudia wondered what he might have thought of the men and machines that removed the old tree. In short order, the tree was taken down, logs loaded, branches shredded and everything hauled away.

"Grandpa would have been amazed," Claudia remarked.

My grandparents and great-grandmother would have been amazed, too.

Jerome Johanning and I were married Sept. 8, 1979, underneath the cedar tree that
my Grandpa Robert Freeland and his mother Mary Hillyer planted on the Freeland farm.

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