Another Generation at Our House

Nurse Stump

As I worked my way toward the southwest corner of the fence yesterday – still trimming back those pesky roses – I bumped up against the old spruce stump, still fairly solid but showing its age with its new role in life.  It has gradually become a full-fledged nurse log with sword fern and bracken, foxglove and moss and lots of there greenery growing proudly among its cracks and crevices.

At the top, over on the south side is a still spindly young spruce tree.  The next generation!  It is probably three feet tall, making it six feet high in all when you factor in the height of that big stump.  It shares the space on the stump’s table-like surface with a big galvanized tub of geraniums.  The little sapling appears to be happy there, as well it should.  It has a proud heritage of which I reminded it as I worked my way along.

The mother tree once grew in the woods nearby and was carefully selected by my grandfather and uncles to serve as a live Christmas tree.  It must have been in 1916 or 1917 – Edwin and Willard remembered that they were about eight and six, respectively.  “We tromped around for a long time to find just the right tree,” my Uncle Ed said.  “It had to be no less than ten feet tall and no more than eleven to fit in the bay window in the parlor.”

Ready for a Sunday Drive, 1939 (Spruce Tree at Left)

After the holidays were over and the clean-up almost complete, the boys and Papa once more went on the search.  This time, it was just in the yard.  They were looking for the perfect place to replant the tree so that they would always remember that Christmas… and all the others, as well.  And they always did.

They chose the southwest corner, adjacent to the lane and across from the church.  “For years the tree didn’t change much,” Willard often recounted.  “Then, it must have finally found a deep-water source and up it shot.”  It became something of a landmark in that part of Oysterville.  In fact, when we finally had to have it removed, there was an angry letter to the paper accusing us of taking down an “old growth” tree and saying that the birds would no longer have reason to come to Oysterville – no place to nest and sit.

Spruce Sapling

But, the tree had a good deal of rot beginning and we had feared for the church or for our dining room or for passing pedestrians and cars should it go over in a big storm.  We watched as the logger from Naselle took it down, section by section and I felt a deep ache with every part that fell.  It was like losing a family member.  It helped a little that the very last round – fully five feet across – was taken and polished and made into an immense coffee table.  It sits in the central room at the Portland Audubon Society – a room surrounded by windows so that the birds can say “hello” as they fly past.

I told the little sapling all of this as I worked yesterday.  I think all of us should know something about our forebears.  Don’t you?

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