Saturday, December 24, 2005

OK 1902

Jules and I visited our east woods late yesterday afternoon to check on the old beech snag where I suspected the great horned owl might be roosting. We found no owl, but we did get to visit one of the oldest trees on our 80 acres. It's a gigantic American beech tree, growing right along the old oil/logging access road at the bottom of our east valley.

Our property has been farmed, grazed, and logged heavily during the past 200 years, but the loggers left the beeches, considering them trash trees, unworthy of cutting. Someone visited this old beech 103 years ago and carved "OK 1902" in its trunk. If you look closely in the first photograph you can barely see the scarred inscription.

Huge parts of the old beech have fallen off. It's got a giant stress fracture down one side, and most of its roots have rotted away, but it's still standing. I like to think of all this tree has witnessed in its lifetime. It certainly heard our township's first tractor roaring in a nearby field, and the first automobile, too. It might have seen the airship Shenandoah pass overhead before it crashed about 25 miles north of here, near Caldwell, Ohio in 1925. World wars, several oil booms, catastrophic flooding and tornadoes. I wonder if the beech, perhaps as a sapling, saw the last great flocks of passenger pigeons that roamed the Ohio valley.

We know that one day the beech will no longer be able to stand and will come crash to the ground. There it will return to the soil to feed some of its many offspring scattered across the hillside around it. Until that sad day, we'll keep visiting it, running our hands over its scarred, ancient trunk, talking to it, and cherishing its presence on our little piece of this planet.


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