Mom said I liked to climb a big maple tree in our yard and often took a kitten up there to play with me. That was before our four-room frame home burned to the ground and our family lost everything we owned!
The heat ruined some of the big maple trees that made the yard wonderfully shady. After the fire, Dad had to find a way to live near his cows, the barn, the milk house and the cistern. He borrowed a big U.S. Army tent and trimmed two of the ruined maple trees to use as "stationary" tent poles! Mom needed constant contact with the milk customers, so her phone was mounted on one of those maple tree tent poles.
We lived in the tent for five months, and I have not forgotten the horrible summer thunderstorms and how vivid lightning flashes were when viewed through wet canvas!
Dad built a small "cook shack" for sugar, flour and all supplies that had to be kept dry. He hitched the mule team to Mom’s "majestic range" and pulled it out of the horrible pile of twisted piano strings, broken dishes, "melted" aluminum pans and broken glass in the ashes.
All of us scraped and cleaned on that cook stove for days, and Mom cooked three meals a day on it for five months until our new home was livable.
Our make-do kitchen/dining area was shaded by one of the maple trees that were not in the fire. We "camped out" from May until early in October while our new house was under construction and moved while the carpenters and painters were still at work.
That was in 1922; it is now 2004, and our children are grown. Chub has been gone for six years, and I now live in an apartment at the edge of town.
I enjoyed two hours at the farm, sitting, thinking and remembering. Fifty cows and many calves came out of the woods to munch grass in the cool of evening; behind them was a colorful sunset. Leaves of the maple I bought intermingle with the mulberry on one side and with redbud on the other.
We four left Saturday breakfast to choose the ideal place to plant this beautiful maple. It was dug that morning from somebody’s woods, and friends said the sun would "scald" it and it would die. Wrong! It has been healthy and strong for all of its 40 years.
The big canopy of shade is completed by a wild redbud that I moved from the roadside as a knee-high, long-rooted sprout.
Redbud roots grow straight down and deep. It blooms in early spring at the time wild plum’s white blossoms announce that spring is definitely here! Redbud’s beauty precedes the arrival of its heart-shaped leaves. I decided to mark a small sprout in spring and to transplant it in early winter.
On a very busy day 50 years ago, when Nancy and Walt were in New Haven R II Grade School, I pulled over and stopped the car and said, "Help me find something to tie on this redbud sprout." We found no string, ribbon, twine or anything to mark it.
"Nothing here but a metal coat hanger," Walter said.
I grabbed the coat hanger and hung it over the sprout and hurried on. We were lucky to find it during winter and transplant it by the kids’ big sandbox. I recommend every sandbox be shaded with a sprawling redbud tree. They provide great shade and make terrific and safe climbing trees.
The trees in my life are like living diaries.