That #8216;ole tree

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Most of us had one growing up. It was Oak or Maple or Walnut or Poplar. It was tall or short or skinny or thick. It was rough or smooth or somewhere in between.

It really didn’t matter, because it was our tree.

Like an old friend, it was the one we grew up with. It was in the front yard or the back yard or over by the woods in the corner. As long as we could get on it and carve it and climb up it and fall out of it. It really didn’t matter. Because it was our tree. It became a part of us.

It started somewhere about the time we could walk. There was this tall thing with fingers pointing to the sky in the back yard. And

it was there every day. The picnic table would change position or the tricycle could be put away, but that tree was always there, in the same place.

And it was just one more thing that made a home a home. Eventually we could reach that first limb and learned to climb that rascal. We were higher off the ground than we had ever been, but we conquered that first limb.

But then there was one more up above us, just waiting to be conquered. Which gave us just what we needed- an increasing sense of achievement, one limb at the time. It also gave us the opportunity to show off when our cousins came over.

But most especially when that particular girl happened to be around. Surely she must have been impressed by how high we could climb.

And so, like a brother, that tree grew up with us. It scratched us up and let us fall out of it. It gave us skinned knees and torn toes. It let us tie ropes on its arms and hang tires down from its biceps. It would let us stretch it way down when we got out on its limbs, and would sway left and right when we climbed way up high, trying to tell us we might want to stop climbing. Her rustling leaves spoke to us when the gentle breezes came, and the first snow adorned her like a bride.

And as that tree grew, so did our imagination. We were high atop the world, like the birds. We were invisible amongst the branches and leaves.

We were pioneers building a fort to keep the bad guys out. We were Tarzan, swinging from limb to limb.

But mostly, perhaps, that tree gave us a sense of permanence. It showed us that some things in this world are here to stay. It told us that the best toys were not bought from the store and one is only limited by our dreams.

Eventually, we quit climbing and building and swinging. We visited that tree less and less until we simply walked by her on our way to other things.

And somehow, that tree took on a look of loneliness, seeming to reflect on those days when she was the center of activity.

In fact, she still speaks to us on windy days. Is anyone listening?

Rex alphin is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is