The leaning evergreen of Greene

Tree leanAs I studied the 80-foot evergreen tree in the side yard of my mother’s home Memorial Day Friday, my head tilted to the angle of the tree. Oh, boy.

I walked around the base of the tree and saw two small cracks in the soil about six inches long, maybe a quarter-inch wide and a quarter-inch deep. Oh, boy.

I shifted my eyes to the guys on the roof of her house situated too few yards from the tree putting on a new metal roof. Oh, boy.

I think that I shall never see …

The tree had had a slight lean for years, and we would tease Mom about waking up one morning with a tree in her bedroom. We talked about removing it more for aesthetic reasons. I had visited her at Easter—five weeks before—and hadn’t seen anything different about the tree.

But the teasing had stopped Friday with a gasp and a gulp.

Recent storms with strong straight-line winds and soaking rains had pulled up smaller trees in Greene, a quaint Iowa town of 1,100, puncturing roofs and yanking up sidewalks and sod. How this tree had withstood this latest of nature’s assaults is purely Divine.

Tree 2Time to get serious

And Mom did. Minutes after I entered her humble abode for my Memorial Day weekend visit, she announced that the tree was coming down—that day. WHEW! Sure enough, within an hour the crew arrived with chainsaws, a wood chipper, and a scissors lift.

Less than two hours later, with a collective yell, (Disappointingly no one yelled “timber!”) the top third of the tree was pulled down, actually bouncing, branches flailing. Like ants, the crew quickly went to work sawing off the remaining branches and eventually the trunk. Due to the close proximity of a maple tree, the fall took out several branches of the tree. Unfortunate, but unavoidable.

By the way, the roofers continued working despite the possibility that their work could be null and void should the tree take a wrong tumble. They climbed down just before the final pull—to take cell phone videos. A few minutes after the tree had literally hit the ground, they climbed back onto the roof and resumed their work.

Reality TV in their front yard

The demise of the Leaning Evergreen of Greene took a total of four hours and drew some passing gawkers and neighbors. One couple across the street watched the spectacle from lawn chairs on their porch—who needs HGTV or the Discovery Channel? My brother, who lives two hours away had called asking if he should come. I snickered knowing he wanted in on the action. He arrived just after the top had toppled.

Tree 3Our family breathed a collective sigh of relief. All that remained of the 500,000-pound tree was a stump about six inches high. A curious roofer counted approximately 75 rings in the tree.

… a poem as beautiful as a tree 

As the days went by, I thought about that tree and the 75 years it had weathered Iowa’s four seasons:

  • Ice storms that downed powerlines and tree branches
  • Heavy wet snows that weighted down branches
  • Two deluges that saturated the ground and flooded the town twice in eight years, both dubbed “unprecedented” and “500-year floods.”
  • Countless wind storms—straight-line and even tornadic—kicking up dust or pouring down buckets of rain.

I pondered the tree’s history. It had been planted in the late-1930s or early-1940s in the shadows of the Great Depression and World War 2.

The house was built in 1919, so the tree was planted 20 years later. Why? Additional shade? To replace one that had died? To fill a gap in the tree canopy? In memory or honor of someone?

How much did a tree sapling cost back then?

How many kids from the house or neighborhood played under the tree for fun and picked up the fallen branches and needles for chore?

More importantly, what had caused the behemoth to lean? Mom said it wasn’t leaning much when they moved into the house nearly 20 years ago. I guess that would be a question for geologist or arborist.

In the meantime, I suggested Mom use the stump to display a pot of flowers. She will.

Pictured Below: Street View Before and After

Tree before.jpg

tree-after.jpg

 

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