“A poem as lovely as a tree,
“Poems are made by fools like me,
“But only God can make a tree.” — Joyce Kilmer
Then there is this:
The Lord gave, and The Lord hath taken away — Job: 1:21
Now, for the rest of the story … of how I got from Joyce Kilmer to The Creator.
In the beginning …
(If you’re gonna plagiarize, the Bible is a good place to start.)
It is a long time ago and in the backyard of a three-bedroom brick out on the edge of town, a man is digging a hole with post-hole diggers. Nearby an 18-month-old is holding to the sides of a playpen. He is watching his daddy dig and mutter and sweat.
The man, still young, grew up out on the rural route where post-hole diggers were about as much a part of life as a hoe and a pitchfork. The years have not changed the man’s opinion that most anything with a handle means work.
The man and his young wife (a drop-dead blonde) agree that the backyard needs a tree. A maple sapling will fit the nicely. It and the toddler are about the same height.
The years fall away. The toddler becomes a teenager, goes off to college. The tree has grown, too. In fact, the tree has grown much taller than the toddler. Its shade now covers a big chunk of the backyard and the patio.
It is a wonderful sight, ‘bout as pretty as any maple ever seen. It is there for outdoor grilling and just plain visiting.
Over the years, me and Jerry Pinkston (a buddy I just lost) spent a lot of time under the tree and over the grill. We grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks and pork chops. We grilled everything that wasn’t nailed down except armadillos and rattlesnakes.
We also cut watermelons, and made ice cream.
It is also where I taught the toddler how to hit a baseball. I stood under the tree and he stood in the sun (baseball fields don’t have shade trees). He became a really good hitter and I became a really boastful daddy.
The patio under the maple was often a community center, too. Considering how many of the world’s problems were solved under the maple it’s disappointing the shape our nation is in today.
Along the way, from my years as a sports writer for this newspaper, a scattering of the famous also enjoyed the shade and the grill.
Richard Petty and Buddy Baker came around. So did Charley Pell and a number of Alabama and Auburn football coaches.
There were some more, but that’s really enough of the “name dropping,” huh?
But nothing lasts forever. The maple (known as “Barry’s Tree” for the toddler) grew into old age and declined. The tree that God had made, he was now taking away.
But not without a fight.
The best tree doctor in the world, Jesse Barksdale, has done a magnificent job holding its passing at bay.
Twice he has trimmed and cut the decay. Throwing away the chaff and keeping the grain, so to speak. He has fertilized it twice. In a inspired moment, he gave the tree a major facelift. He applied steel cables at critical points to hold the tree together.
Over the years, Jesse has also made it a point to ride by and “keep and eye on your tree.”
This week, from my barn, I looked at the tree and gave Jesse a call.
“Came by there last week. Didn’t look so good. We’ll be there Monday to see what can be done.”
There is some hope.
Jesse is also the Rev. Jesse Barksdale and if he can’t hold death at bay a bit longer, perhaps he can intercede with God … and delay the “taking away” a bit longer.
That is my prayer …
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: email@example.com