Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oak Number Three

So, two weeks ago today I arrived in Magnolia for an emergency family trip which, fortunately, turned out not to be as big a crisis as we'd feared (so far, anyway). But it turned out I was there for one event I hadn't been expecting.

When I got into town, my first stop was to drop by and greet my mother at the Wal-Mart where she works. And, as usual, my second stop was to drive by and see the yard, the empty lot where the house I called home from 1969 to 1981 (and revisited many times thereafter, up until about four years ago) used to stand. Most of the (seasonal) flowers I'd planted last time were gone, as expected, and I sadly confirmed that neither the mimosa that came up on its own nor the cherry tree I planted had survived. But the new rose bush and the camellia (to replace the two wonderful camellias that came down with the house) seemed to be doing well, and the little raised bed of day lillies also seemed to have taken root, as well as the violets I dug up along the Ouachita River over in Camden. I made my usual survey of the trees, including the dying stub of one of the oaks, now hollow but having still valiantly put out a few thin straggly limbs just this past year; I'd convinced my mother to leave it standing, since from the holes in it it was obvious that someone, woodpecker or squirrel, was calling it home.

Then, the next day when we got back from our business in Shreveport that'd brought me down, I swung by again, only to find that the tree had come down either the night before (Monday) or earlier that day (Tuesday).* It hadn't done any damage, simply fallen over into the yard, neatly pointing away from the neighbor's driveway and storage shed, and even ending a few feet short of the rose bush. The top had disintegrated with the impact, leaving a limbless trunk perhaps eighteen feet long; investigation showed that only two roots had still been alive and holding the tree in place. My mother wanted to have it chopped up and hauled off, but I was able to persuade her that it'd be better to leave it as a nursery log, so I found someone who came by and maneuvered it into position along (but entirely on our side of) the property line, rather like some folks set out railroad ties. I spent an afternoon picking up the debris and getting it out of the way, cutting off a few roots sticking up the wrong way, and the like. In the end I was rather pleased with the results: the old tree now lies between two of its surviving brethren (Oak #2 and Oak #4), which like Oak #1 fared better than it did when the idiots at AP&L (Arkansas Power & Light) came by a few years ago and cut off all the third tree's limbs, since all four stood near a power line. The other three had some limbs left, enabling them to continue growing, but the tree-butchers lopped off every limb from one tree, effectively dooming it. Gah! I do feel bad about whatever had been living in it -- I found a bunch of yarn inside the debris that'd clearly been somebody's nest -- given that it's a hard time to lose yr home, with winter coming on. Maybe the fallen tree might still do, in a pinch.

Aside from that one old friend finally giving up the ghost, the yard looks pretty good. There are still nine of the original ten trees left: the other three oaks in a line to the left (sadly mangled years ago but having now largely recovered), the main oak out front (which lost some branches at the hands of the folks who knocked down the house but now, some four or five years later, once again thriving so that you can't see the damage unless you know where to look), one oak in the back, the two pecan trees (the big pecan in the back and the little pecan in the front), and the two double pines. All these would have been planted some sixty years or more ago, when the house was first built, and before my grandmother moved into it. In addition, a pine tree that'd grown up in a corner some thirty years ago is now a fairly substantial tree, though dwarfed by the older pines. In addition to the trees, the original forsythia (now a mighty bush) and a few of the nandina survive, as does the bamboo I planted years ago. I also, while I was there, created a second raised bed, this time lined with native stone and filled with daffodils below (for the spring) and pansies above (for my mother to enjoy right now). I'll see next visit how they did.

*I later learned from a neighbor who lives across the street that she'd heard it fall on Monday afternoon, so it'd come down only an hour or two after I'd been by to see it.

Other than that, it was a more eventful trip than I expected -- torrential rain, with several roads closed and one person drowned when her car went off the road in poor visibility (in a second incident, a man managed to climb atop the cab of his truck and was saved). All the more startling, since Magnolia lacks any river and only has a few v. minor creeks. But I missed the real fireworks, which were due to occur the evening of the day I drove back to Little Rock to catch my flight home: ex-Prime Minister Ohlmert's visit to S.A.U. I don't know how many people showed up for his $100-a-person speech (for $200, you cd get yr picture taken with him). I'd thought Ohlmert was in jail following his corruption trial, but apparently not. Odder still, his speech was due to be protested by the Pharisees from the Westboro Baptist Church, who turn out to be anti-semetic as well as homophobes and general loons. Whether they showed up or not I don't know, but at any rate I assume the Prime Minister had a better reception in Magnolia than he did a few days later at another stop in his bank-money-for-the-trial tour, as recorded in the following link:

So, as strange a trip as it was, if my timing had been a little different it cd have been considerably stranger.

current book: THE AGENDA, by Bob Woodward.

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