Gardens to Gables

The Tree that Nelson Spared

I played a little hooky on Monday. My work schedule has been pretty overwhelming lately, and although my mind dances with subjects I want to write about, I can’t seem to find the time for this blog. But on Monday, I took the time – around 20 minutes – and visited an old, old friend.

I’d read, earlier that morning, Tom Eblen’s article about venerable trees in the Bluegrass and immediately thought of the ancient tree standing in the middle of a field at home.

I remember the first time I saw it, riding along with my father in the truck as he checked on some cattle, years and years ago. I was confused at first, because nowhere else on the farm were trees located in the center of a field. Trees clustered along creeks, or stood in regimented lines along fences, but did not stand isolated and grand like this tree.

As was my custom, I immediately peppered my father with questions. All he knew was that the tree had always been there, back when he was a little boy, and when his mother was a little girl, and it was old even then.

My family started farming this land in the 1820s, when two brothers, the youngest sons of 10 children, set out from Fayette County in search of cheaper land and their futures. We’re not a family with a dearth of stories, so I knew a story must be cloaked about the gnarled and bending branches.

And not just a story, but romance…we decided, my father and I, that this burr oak must have been spared because my great-great-great grandfather, Nelson, was struck by its form and beauty, just as we were. He was a shrewd businessman, and quite interested in the bottom line, but he allowed the tree to remain.

I felt like a little girl again as I walked toward it in the October sunshine, looking for acorns underneath its spreading branches. I returned to my car, and work, and the real world only about 20 minutes later, but the energy and joy of that brief respite lingered with me all day.

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12 Thoughts on “The Tree that Nelson Spared

  1. Joberta Wells on October 4, 2017 at 7:21 pm said:

    Thank you. I am a tree hugger and these magnificent trees are better than man-made cathedrals.

  2. Jane Kirn on October 4, 2017 at 8:27 pm said:

    Just a lovely story..A tree is not just a tree sometimes..Sometimes it has a story and I enjoyed hearing yours..🌳

    • Janie-Rice Brother on October 5, 2017 at 9:09 am said:

      It is quite a magnificent tree – I only wish my grandmother was around – I would love to hear her thoughts on it.

  3. Annie Jaech on October 5, 2017 at 12:06 am said:

    Nothing stops me in my tacks faster than a large, lovely tree. Especially an oak. A large old tree is more alive than I am. It serenely holds its ground. Its root system serenely embraces rocks and pebbles, large and small. Large trees are so private!
    Thank you for introducing us to a new and vital friends.

  4. Keenan on October 5, 2017 at 5:30 am said:

    Wonderful! Very few of these giants from the old savannahs are left. My parents gave me a Burr Oak seedling for my high school graduation. It was from my aunt & uncle’s 400 acre farm in Fayette Co that was part of the old Hart land grant. It was dotted with them and they were humongous! I won’t mention what it is covered with now…

    • Janie-Rice Brother on October 5, 2017 at 9:05 am said:

      Thanks Keenan! Now I have to figure out how to get my acorns to sprout and become seedlings. And I can well imagine what sort of “crop” that land is growing now…buildings…

  5. Thank you for that lovely story. Nature can bring us back to ourselves in ways nothing else quite can.

    • Janie-Rice Brother on October 5, 2017 at 9:04 am said:

      Thank you – and you are exactly right. My brief visit cemented my desire to get out of town & move back to the farm…

  6. David Ames on October 5, 2017 at 8:45 am said:

    Great story!

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