My life, growing up, growing old...
By Thomas Goeritz
I turn 100 this year. How can that be? It seems like yesterday that I first realized that I was growing in the ground. I was lucky that a farmer planted me as a little seedling, threw in a dead fish and then, he tried to drown me! It took a couple of months before I could really relax and start growing. Around the fourth month I was nearly eight inches tall, feeling great.
Mama deer and her fawn came by. You might know that little fawn spotted me. I thought I was going to die without even getting a chance to grow up. I was lucky. The fawn only ate a couple of my tender leaves when something spooked the doe and they both ran off.
The farmer had marked me with a stick so nothing would happen to me. Yes, you may have guessed, his young son was mowing the lawn on the riding lawn mower listening to music and not paying attention to where he was going. Sure, at the last minute he saw the marker and swerved, but it was too late. I was literally crushed. Two wheels on the mower had flattened me to the ground. I could not move for a long time. Then, it started to rain. It was a miracle! I started to gain strength, and popped back up to my full height, almost a foot tall.
The rest of the summer was uneventful, except for the farmer’s dog who liked to come by, this is embarrassing, he often relieved himself right on my trunk. Well, maybe that helped me grow. As fall approached, I am getting taller. It was cool to see everything around me, I really liked watching the birds and squirrels. I must admit, the winter was hard on me. Nearly buried in snow with no escape is rather concerning.
Everything went very well through the next spring and summer, no one tried to have me for lunch, and no lawn mowers came close. I did stretch out some, and by fall I was starting to take shape. Snow arrived early that year and I was nicely tucked in a blanket of snow. And then it happened. I started to feel a slight pain in my lower half; what was going on? Oh no, a rabbit had found me and thought he would have some of my tender bark for his lunch. This could be the end of me, and I was just getting started. Fortunately a red fox came by, and the rabbit ran off. Saved again.
As the years started to pass by, I was starting to be noticed. There were young children who would come and climb on my branches. We all had fun except for the time the young boy fell. He didn’t cry too long, and nothing was broken. During the same time a robin built her nest on one of my higher branches. She had three babies. What fun to watch them grow and learn how to fly. Then one day I woke up and felt like I was being stabbed. Jab, jab, jab, and did that hurt. A red-headed woodpecker was looking for food. No worms on this oak tree. He finally flew away.
About the time I turned 20, I had some real fun with the children. The farmer attached a tire wing on one of my sturdy branches. We would swing for hours. That really brought me joy.
A few years later I was not feeling very good. I hurt all over. My leaves were wilting; I guess it was a bad infection or disease. The kind farmer sprayed me with some chemicals. Eventually, I started to get better, maybe.
I was a survivor?
Time just kept marching by; I had been growing for 50 years. I was the tallest tree on the hill. I will say I was sturdy and handsome. That’s right, a tree can’t have human traits. For a tree I looked good.
Just when you think life is great, stuff happens. It was a stormy evening with rain, wind, and lightning all around.
At first, I didn’t know what had happened, something hit me in the back, and I felt it clear to my roots. It was terrible pain and then, I smelled smoke. Lord help me, I am on fire! Thankfully, the rain continued, however, I ended up with a black scar from my shoulders to the ground. I would never be the same.
It was not long after that I saw this black car driving up the hill and it parked right underneath me. Two men got out with shovels and started digging a deep hole. As I watched and listened, I learned that my dear friend the farmer had died and asked to be buried underneath me. I was so overwhelmed, I wish I could have cried.
It was nearly five years later, the farmer’s son, who now owned the farm, showed up with a chainsaw. Am I about to die? Fortunately, he cut off some of my dead branches and one low hanging limb. Imagine a part of you being cut into fireplace-size wood and hauled away. Part of me would be going up in smoke!
Shortly before my 100th birthday a group from the county extension service came out to see me. I guess at my age I was a celebrity of sorts. They checked out my lightening scars from many years ago, and could see where those kids had tried to build a treehouse; those nails have hurt for years.
So here I am today, 100 years old, still strong with many healthy limbs. I tire easily these days; the wind, cold, snow, and the storms seem worse than when I was young. I still have a great view and can see for miles; I just wish that once I could walk like all of those who played in my shade or on my branches. I remember the time that the young man and his girlfriend put a blanket underneath me, they started kissing…whoops, that is another story.
I am so proud of all the young oaks around me. Like the farmer’s son taking over, so will the young oaks. It is sad to think of leaving; I guess we all have an expiration date.
In the years to come, few will ever know that I was here or care about my story; the joys, the challenges, and the sorrows over a long life. I guess that is true for all of us.