Mixsonian Larry

 

Story of A Tree

  Although this story is fictional, it is based on real people and events.  

Eagles Nest

  I was a tree, a southern longleaf pine with some eighty rings upon my girth in the forest with my sister trees, some older, some younger. Our mother tree stood some distance away.  She was a magnificent tree, towering above those children that sprung from her seed around her.  Mother, with her towering height, was honored by being selected by the eagles to build their nest in her topmost branches, an honor giving only the tallest and strongest of trees.      

Over the cycles of the sun mothered whispered in the wind to her children, telling us stories of times of rain, times of wind, times of fire, times of draught but always encouraging us to grow strong, to endure the winters, to bask in the warmth of the summers.  It was a slow-paced life, adding a ring to our girth each cycle of the sun.  We were in no hurry, for we were deeply rooted, only hoping one day to grow as strong and tall as mother.  Not all of the children made it, some grew weak, some fell to wind or succumbed to some other mishap.  But that was the cycle of life, we who lived on thanked those that fell for nourishment that their bodies would provide as they returned to the earth.    

One day our peaceful, long life existence was disturbed.   I remember that day, the day the men came.  They came with their blades of metal.  They hack, they sawed, my mother fell, they cut off her branches and the horses dragged her away.  For many cycles of the sun my sister trees, through our roots, through the wind blowing through our leaves whispered to each other about what we had seen, where was mother taken?  What would happen to the eagles

The Sistrunks

   The Sistrunk family needed a new barn for the horses, hay, and instruments needed for the farm.  In this part of old Florida trees were plentiful, particularly the tall old growth pines.  When Mr. Sistrunk decided to build a new barn, he sent his sons to the back of their property to cut and bring back the trees needed to build the barn.  The sons were excited, for the first time their father trusted them for such a task without him being there to tell them what to do. They gathered their axes and saws, hitched the horse to a log puller and marched off into the forest.  As they walked further into the forest, the searched for the perfect tree to fell, but they all knew of the tree, it was the biggest, tallest tree, the one with the eagle’s nest.  They knew it would make their father proud to bring back such a tree glorious tree and they set at it with their axes and saws.  The tree begin to lean, started to creek, the boys stepped back as the tree slowly begin to fall making thunderous sound as it crashed to the ground.   The sons stood there for a moment at what they had done in the silence then whooped wildly and set about chopping off the branches making it ready to take back.  It was harder than they thought, such a big tree was a real struggle for the single horse to drag back, so they cut off a manageable section to take back to the farm.    

When they got back to the farm they were exhausted but were excited about the praise they expected from their father but when they arrived they were surprised their father did not seem happy at all.  The sons paused and saw their father fuming and when he said in a quiet but stern voice,  “What is that?”  and the eldest son replied, “A tree for the barn.”  And the father said, “We can’t use that, it’s too big.”, and turned and walked back into the house.   The sons were stunned and turned to look to each other.  The youngest son asked “What are we to do with it?” and the eldest replied “Haul it out back and leave it.”    

For several months the father did not mention the tree and the sons didn’t ask about it or the barn.  They were particularly helpful and obedient though. On night the following spring the father said at the dinner table, “You know we still need that barn.”  The older sons held their breath for what might come next while the youngest son let out a slight gasp.  The father then went on to lecture about the size of trees needed to build a barn.  The work it would take to get cut them down, drag them out of the forest, scrape off the bark, take the hewing axes and two-man saws to make the beams and planks needed for a barn.  He then looked each son into the eye and asked “Do you understand?”  They said in unison “Yes Papa” and the father replied, “Well I need you to go get some trees for a barn.”

The Tree

I had grown another ring when the men came again with their metal blades.  An older sister was cut down, then another.  The youngest of our sisters were simply trampled or cut and left lying on the ground.  As the men approached me, I knew my time had come, they as cut into me tears of sap flowed freely as I fell.  My beautiful branches were cut off and the horses dragged me away.   I felt naked without my branches and was ashamed as I was hauled under the canopy of the forest and past other trees.  At the men’s farm I was put into a pile with my sister trees.  It felt unnatural to feel their trunks against my bark for the I had ever felt the touch of another tree upon me, only the slight brushes of leaves with those closest to me.    

As I laid on the ground, I watched the men take as my sister trees were taken from the pile, striped of their bark, chopped, sawed and hewed into pieces and put into a strange stack the men had devised.   My turn came and they did the same, I had never felt so cold as I did that first day without my bark, the wind blowing upon my inner flesh.    My pieces were added to the strange pile, some touching, others apart.  I could feel my sister trees I rested upon and those that rested upon me, but we could not whisper to each other as we did in the forest, for we did not have our leaves in the wind and roots  deep into the ground to whisper with.

The Barn

  In time I adapted to my new life, not growing, not dying, but being part of what I learned the men called a barn.  Sometimes I thought myself lucky for I had one side of me left untouched though without bark.  It faced the outside of the barn where I could feel the sun, experience the wind and the rain and over time turned gray like the beards of old man that came into the barn.  The years passed, the men came and went, putting animals, wagons, plows, and other instruments in the barn.  I think I served them well as a barn but in time the men stopped coming. The instruments they put in the barn begin to rust, some of my sisters at the bottom of the barn begin to decay.  In some ways I thought they were the lucky ones, letting go becoming one with the earth.  But I stood on as the barn begin to sag, rain seeped in, wind slipped through the open door.  It was a peaceful quite time after the men stopped coming, the grass grew high in the field, mice found shelter in the barn.  One day an eagle came and landed on the roof of the barn, then flew down to a giant old log that had lain at the back all these years  then spying something flew swooped down and carrying away some small animal it had caught.     

  I was content with the passing of the cycles of the sun when two young men and a young woman came.  They walked about inside and out of the barn pointing to one piece and another saying what my timbers could be used for, a beam, a post and so on .  They tapped on me saying how strong and sturdy I was. They attached ropes to me and other timbers, attached the other end to horses and pulled the us apart onto the ground.  If would have had the sap of my youth in me I would have cried for it felt so good to touch the ground that had been held so far from me but it was short lived.   The loaded me and my fellow timbers onto a wagon and as we traveled down the road I admired the many tall oaks, hickory and pines that lined the side of the roads remembering the times I had stood as such.

The House

Morris and Arnold in front of the houseAdrian and Morris in front of the house, 1929

The wagon pulled to a stop, the men got off, and took us from the wagon and placed us on the ground.  Taking me from the ground first, the men cut off some from one end and then they placed me horizontally with each end on a pile of rocks and I became the foundation beam.  Over the course of the next few days they constructed a building over me using my fellow timbers we became what they called a house.   Down underneath the house, I would not again see the direct light of the sun for a hundred years.  

The following week a young man named Wilbur his wife Rosalie, son Adrian and daughter Myrtice moved into the house.  Although I could not see them I could hear and feel the vibrations of their feet as they walked in the house above me and over the following years I felt the children grow as the thumping of their feet grew louder on the planks above me.   Over the years some family left, and others came, sometimes with new young ones of their own and I laid there under the house listening to them on the floor above me. 

Over time, I grew a fondness for them  and was proud to serve them as I laid there under the house.  It was not always easy, the bugs were always testing me, boring holes into me but my sap of my inner heart wood held them at bay.   I did begin to sag a little in the middle but considering I was over two hundred years old, I was still strong.  

Families came and families went over the following years, some making additions to the house.  And then the stopped coming.   New trees and brush sprung up around the house and I laid there at it’s foundation.  Over time the house above me begin to decay, the newer additions on the outside crumbling first, a leak here and there letting the wind and water in but I still stood underneath the center of the house strong and steadfast.   The sound of something crumbling inside, or the patter of water from the leaking roof on the floor brought back memories of  the footsteps of  the families I held over the years. 

 

1900