I’ve lived on 5 acres of Ohio’s finest flatland for 20 years of my life.
Being an only child, I grew up playing mostly by myself and exploring various fantasy worlds I read about in books in my own backyard. My imagination, thank God, has always been a little over-active. This really helps a small boy when there’s no one else his age around.
I got to know our property pretty well. Ruts, gopher holes, areas that were always soggy, and areas that made for fantastic Hot Wheels dirt tracks. We never really trees, though. Our home was built sometime in the 80’s, so in the early 90’s when we moved here from Dayton, all the trees we had were very young, and not good for climbing. We had one tree that was grown up though, and even though I could never climb it, it became pretty special to me.
I named it “Ent,” around the time I discovered the Lord of the Rings. A giant, 50 some or more foot tall Ash tree at the very far corner of our property. Between this giant Ash and the Weeping Willow we used to have in the front yard, I made up quite a few adventures.
In my teens, we lost the Willow. Some kind of beetle killed it. I was in high school, always running around with basketball and trying desperately for some kind of social life, I didn’t notice or seem to miss the loss of an old friend that kept me entertained when I was growing up.
Earlier this month, however, I noticed the loss of Ent.
Ash trees in Ohio are under close watch because of the Emerald Ash Borer. A pest native to Eastern Asia, they were discovered in Ohio in 2003. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources made stopping this pest a priority, and also made the conservation of Ash trees a priority as well.
Over the last couple of years, the ODNR had been visiting Ent fairly regularly, placing little boxes on the trunk that was designed to combat the ash borer. While Ent was hit by the pest, ODNR was confident that they would be able to save the tree, even though it would never quite look the same. Some branches would be lost, but Ent would stand for another 100 or more years.
Well, he should have. Until the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Highland County Engineer decided otherwise.
We estimated Ent to be 100 years old, give or take 10. We’ve lived in our house for 20 years. Not once, ever, has someone hit the tree while we have been living here. Recently though, a decision was made in Highland County. Any trees on “Ohio” property in the drainage gulch off the side of a roadway would be removed for the safety of drivers. Too many people have been paying more attention to their cell phones while they’re driving, and they slam into trees, telephone poles, and anything else close to the road.
Because our society is tech obsessed, the obvious solution is not to actively enforce the laws on the books. Goodness no, that’s an inconvenience. We need to remove the trees.
Early one Tuesday about two weeks ago, ODOT trucks came to start taking Ent down to the ground. At first I thought they were removing branches that were hanging over the road. Fair enough, they’ve done that before. Then I noticed that they started taking down all the branches. Then they started cutting down the drunk.
I’d make a horrible photojournalist, because I just stand and watch things and forget I have a camera near by. I just stood there, watching this team of men take down this tree that I had forgotten had so much importance to me once. It’s the old saying, “you never know what you have until it’s gone.” As this team started cutting down the trunk, I started remembering all the times that tree became some terrible foe, or a source of wisdom for a brave knight rescuing the citizens of his kingdom. Boyhood fantasies.
When confronted, the work team said the tree was too close to the road and needed to come down for safety reasons.
There was no point in getting mad at the work crew. They had their orders and they were just doing a job. I was mad, though. This was my tree, and the state just took it down. Why? Stupid people.
I should make something clear. I’m not a tree hugger. I hate the Prius, I don’t believe in global warming and I drive a turbocharged sports sedan. I still love nature, though. I believe in taking better care of the world than tearing things up for “progress” or “safety.” God gave us a world, and He knew how we would progress, and I believe that the world was designed to handle our growth. Be that as it may, however, tearing a tree down that no one has ever hit, and has been standing there long before a Model T Ford passed it by on a dirt track, because drivers aren’t paying attention, is painful to me.
And it isn’t just my Ent. Trees all along my road are being butchered “for safety’s sake.” Trees I grew up driving past every day for 20 years. Trees that were so beautiful in the fall, and so bright in the spring. Gone. Butchered. For no real reason that I can see. This is senseless. This makes me angry.
ODNR has been notified of the tree being taken down. Ash trees are valued in Ohio. I imagine that the person who authorized the take down of the tree is or has already been reamed. And what was left of Ent was given to a pastor friend, who uses a wood stove to keep his home warm, so at least he wasn’t completely wasted.
None of these facts change the fact that the tree is gone now. That a once tall and proud figure is nothing more than a 1 inch tall stump.
So this post is to Ent. A silent friend to you a young boy with an active imagination. A windmill to Don Quixote. A towering evil king, a wise old friend. A friend that stood for a hundred years. A tree who may have helped other boys who were lonely. A tree that housed hundreds of birds, from owls to falcons to robins. To a tree that always signaled you were just that much closer to home from a long day at work or college.