Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 25, 2022

Tree tales

Last Tuesday afternoon, six workmen spent several hours sawing, trimming and grinding branches from our neighbors' trees and ours. I was fascinated, watching as they put on harnesses and climbed into "buckets" to reach the taller branches. The thuds from the limbs dropping shook the ground, causing our cat Minnie to hide under our bed.

Looking out the front window, I realized the lower-most branches of our pin oak had been trimmed away - branches that once held daughter Mariya when she was learning to climb trees. Another day, a small owl found it a handy perch, and held our attention for an entire afternoon.

The redbud next to our deck was a present from Mom, who was always buying seedlings from the Arbor Day people. It was a source of joy in the springtime, when its purple "blooms" would pop out. I spent many happy moments sitting on our deck watching the cardinals, robins, blue jays and other birds perching in its branches. But this past summer, a storm twisted and broke many of the limbs. It was not salvageable.

The pine tree was the only one left of several Art planted in 1977 when he bought our house. They had separated us from our neighbors to the east, but the others were removed in 2011, succumbing to an infection. This one had hung on for another 11 years, but it too had died and so it had to come down.

The loss of each of these trees sparked memories just as others before them. In my "Trees of my life" column, I wrote about the cedar tree Grandpa Robert Freeland and his mother Mary planted on our farm. It served as a canopy for late husband Jerome's and my 1979 wedding. But lightning strikes, and the effects of wind and insects meant it eventually had to be removed. Mom took slices of the trunk and made clocks for siblings Dave, Gaila and me and Dad�s brothers Bob and Stan. Mine hangs next to the refrigerator in my kitchen and often prompts thoughts of earlier times. Later, Mom had small cedar jewelry boxes made for each of us kids and her six grandkids.

Husband Art says he never returns to his Wisconsin boyhood home without thinking about the two huge maples that stood in front of the home for decades. We have kept the house and we sleep in the upstairs bedroom he and his brother had. When Art gets up in the morning and looks out the front windows, he thinks about one particular day when he was in grade school. It was a cold February morning and outside was a white wonderland. But he was surprised to see the front bumper of his dad Tom's International truck partially wrapped around the trunk of the tree nearest the driveway. Tom worked nights, and the streets had been slick when he arrived home at 5 a.m. The truck followed the turn into the driveway only part way.

It struck him funny as his dad was an excellent driver and not the type to just leave a vehicle. So he knew his dad must have been so disgusted that he just went inside and went to bed. Art took a closer look before heading off to school that day, but by the time he came home, his dad had already straightened the bumper and the truck was in its usual place outside the garage. The only sign of the accident was the small patch of bark missing from the tree.

When I met Art, I had a home in Manhattan. When we married, I moved into his place and he eventually used mine for his business.

On the north side of my old house, there were two huge mulberry trees and one of them was threatening the building. One day he had been doing some trimming with the chain saw and decided to take the troublemaker down. He vaguely remembered there was some reason he had not done so in the past, but brushed that concern aside in his "get it done" state of mind. He thought it probably had to do with wondering whether he could drop it neatly into the gap between the other tree and the house. But he was confident.

The tree had barely begun its journey to the ground when he remembered the cause for his earlier concern! A few seconds later, it intercepted the neighbors' telephone wire, taking it to the ground. To his surprise, their phone still worked and the company came out and reinstalled the hanger on the side of the house ... for free!

Just to the west of our Wisconsin cottage was a huge maple tree. For years, it was our harbinger of the cool days of autumn setting in, with its foliage turning first yellow-orange and then bright red. Its trunk was getting more hollow with each passing year, so we enjoyed every autumn display as if it was its last. The fall of 2021 was its final performance. It had to be removed as it was unsafe.

Last Wednesday, I was on campus for a Beach Museum of Art board meeting. When Art came to pick me up, I glanced over to where my campus parking place had been before I retired. Immediately I thought of the ginkgo tree beside it. I have no idea why it being there became an important connection with the campus for me ... but it was. It provided shade in the hot summer months and, in the fall, its beautiful golden leaves brightened even the dreariest of days.

Trees are one of those things that are so easily overlooked ... just part of the ambience. But once they are gone, suddenly a small hole opens in our hearts because they are so interwoven with our history.

Top-left: the "bucket man" trimming our neighbor's tree; bottom-left: the neighbor's tree when the pruning was completed; top-center: our farm's old cedar tree provided some good shade for Jerome and my September wedding; bottom-center; my jewelry box made from the cedar tree's wood; top-right: the old maple near our Wisconsin cottage gives its last performance in 2021; bottom-right: There will be no more blooms from our redbud like these from last spring.

Comments? [email protected].
Other columns from this year may be found at: Current year Index.
Links to previous years are on the home page: Home