Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Good and Bad (05/07/09)
TITLE: Big Tree on Goose Island
By Betty Castleberry
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Alicia grasped Meagan’s hand a little firmer as the little girl tugged. She was in a hurry to get to the fence. When she did, Alicia watched as her face fell.
A noble tree, its sienna bark deeply engraved and weathered, stood before them. Its huge trunk, squat and solid, formed a sturdy base for branches that snaked almost parallel to the ground or reached skyward in soft curves. The magnificent tree’s verdant leaves rested comfortably along its arms and danced almost imperceptibly in the light breeze.
“Mommy, it’s just a tree. You said it was gonna be something really neat.”
Alicia smiled. “This isn’t just any tree, sweetie. This is a very special tree.”
The little girl turned to her mother. “It’s still just a dumb ole tree.”
“Let me tell you about the ‘dumb ole tree’. She is over a thousand years old.” Alicia brushed a strand of soft brown hair from Megan’s eyes. “Did you know that?”
Her daughter pushed her lips into a pout and shook her head.
“Well, she is.”
“Mommy, why do you call it a she?”
“Because this tree is like a mother. She has given shelter and homes to lots and lots of different animals in her long life.”
Meagan became more animated. “Like birds?”
“Yes, like birds, and raccoons, and squirrels. I’m sure deer have napped in her shade.”
Alicia laughed. “I’m not sure about Bambi.
“Let’s go over there and read what the sign says.”
A stone plaque recorded the history of the ancient tree and its contributions to the environment. “Look. It says she is a live oak tree. Her trunk is 35 feet around and 11 feet across. That’s a lot bigger across than you are tall.”
Meagan squirmed. “Talk about the animals.”
“Well, okay. It says here she has taken care of rabbits, too.”
Meagan’s eyes grew wide. “Maybe Thumper.”
Alicia smiled. “Besides giving animals a place to live, trees make us healthier. They help us to breathe better. Just think of all the people and animals this tree has helped. Sweetie, this tree is remarkable. Are you beginning to see that?”
“I guess. Why is there a fence around it?”
“That’s so people won’t get too close. It’s a shame, but there are some that might want to do mean things to her. Her trunk has been damaged by people. She has had some rough times and they want to protect her.”
Alicia read from the plaque again. “It’s not only people that have harmed her. She has been through hundreds of hurricanes and even a big fire. She has survived diseases and pests, too.”
“Bad things happened to her?”
“I’m afraid so. People can be kind, too. Somebody took care of her when she was sick and they trimmed her dead branches. ”
The two stood in silence and observed the tree. Scattered around it, both inside and outside the fence, were smaller trees. Alicia made a big sweeping motion with her arm, taking in all the tree’s offspring around them. “These trees are her babies. Some of them are pretty big, and probably pretty old, too.”
Meagan picked an acorn from the ground. “Can I have this?”
“I guess so. It’s a baby oak.”
“At least it has the potential to be one if it is planted.”
“Can I plant it?”
“I don’t see why not.
“Are you ready to go?”
Meagan nodded, the acorn clenched in her small fist.
Alicia glanced back at the big tree. “God made that tree. He had special plans for her. She is truly one of His miracles.”
Her daughter bobbed her head. “God made everything.”
“That’s right, Sweetie.”
The two walked away from the fence, the big tree standing in majestic silence behind them. It had returned for a thousand springs, its rich experiences hidden among its branches.
The Big Tree really exists. It is located on Goose Island in Aransas County, Texas.
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