Almost forty years ago when I first arrived here, there was a field that was used for cattle. It was of course fenced in to keep the herd from roaming. A very large field with a twin close by, in which the cattle would be moved from time to time for the cows to obtained fresh grazing ground. In the field there was a tree, even back then it looked old and very tough. Some of the big branches were dead, though in the smaller ones there was still plenty of life. So each day as I passed by I would look over the fence and enjoy its masculine beauty. No gentle lines for this survivor of many storms, lighting strikes and droughts. No there was a stubborn look, as if it was in constant readiness to take on the next challenge. For years, decades really, I kept thinking that it was dying and soon it would have to be cut down. Yet it persisted, taking deep root in Georgia’s soil.
No it was not attractive, but it had its own magnificent presence that was perhaps better than being just beautiful. For it was twisted, branches bent, yet it seemed so powerful that I loved looking at it. On some days it actually gave me courage, those times when life can weigh you down and giving up can be a thought that rises to the surface; which often happens during such trials. For this tree seemed to face up to everything and continue. It was struck by lighting two times that I am aware of, but survived them both by many years. Quite rare, at least for around here, for once struck; disease usually is not far behind. Even having a tree surgeon out does not always do the trick, at least in my experience, for they all seem to die within a few years at the longest. Not so for my friend in the field, for he never got any attention at all, yet survived with flying colors.
About twenty years ago the cattle were sold off, the fence taken down and for a short while it was just an open field. Then in the late eighties pine trees were planted, the ‘stubborn’ one being just out a bit from the edge. So it lost some grandeur, though not over shadowed by the pine. The forest has been thinned out, and now the remaining pine trees are quite tall. The forest will be left in place to keep out the noise from the highway that is nearby.
About a month ago, we had a sudden afternoon storm, a bad one. The winds so strong that the rain was flying sideways and the branches in the trees were being put to the test, holding on for dear life. The storm was soon over and the sun came back out and things returned to normal, or so I thought.
The next day as I was walking, I looked over to look at my old friend. The place where it stood was vacant, and looking down all I saw was the back side of the root system clogged with red Georgia clay. It seemed that it had fought its last battle and lost. I guess it was a causality of the drought that we have had the last few years. Perhaps its tap root had died, so it was weak and ready to be pushed over by the high winds.
I will miss its rugged magnificent presence, its stubborn refusal to give in or give up, and its tenacious love of simple existence now gone. I have always loved trees and when I am in part of the country that does not have them my soul seems to ache for their presence. I guess my soul will ache a bit for the ‘Stubborn-One’; but in the end, we are all just passing through.