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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Good and Bad (05/07/09)

TITLE: Big Tree on Goose Island
By Betty Castleberry


Beach morning glories trailed along the sandy path and a chorus of insects sang in the thick web of marshy plants. A few cottony clouds tiptoed across the cornflower sky, their promise of rain almost none. Still, Alicia had hopes the venture into the searing afternoon heat would be a memorable time for her daughter, just as it had been for her when she was a child.

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.”

“Even Bambi?”

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.

Author’s Note:

The Big Tree really exists. It is located on Goose Island in Aransas County, Texas.

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This article has been read 923 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mona Purvis05/15/09
Enjoyed this story. I love trees, love to think about them and all they've witnessed. Well-written, very descriptive.
LaNaye Perkins05/15/09
I love the vivid pictures that your words painted in this entry. You did a masterful job in bringing the story of this old tree to life. Well done my FaithWriter friend. Well done!
Catrina Bradley 05/17/09
I love the descriptions, and the personification of the tree. You brought her to life. I'm wondering why you reverted to referring to her as "it" in the last paragraph; I think it would have been a more powerful ending if you had continued the personification. I wouldn't have been as patient as the mom when her daughter wasn't as excited as she was about the tree. Good job on the characters - the little girl in particular was very realistic.
Gregory Kane05/18/09
I like the idea that this very same conversation could have taken place between the main character and HER mother. Some lovely vibrant descriptive language.
My one reservation would be with regard to your use of dialogue. I appreciate that you're deliberately using a specific style rather than the conventional way of attributing speech. But I found some of the back and forth dialogue a little strained at points and I wonder if the odd "she said" might have helped to smooth it out a little. See what you think. Bless you.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/18/09
You roped me in with your first paragraph of wonderful description. The little girl was very real in this story with such a great message.
Gerald Shuler 05/18/09
I always enjoy reading your beautifully descriptive writing style. Wonderful entry.
Carol Slider 05/18/09
This is so sweet and descriptive. I love big trees! Well done.
Chely Roach05/19/09
Sweet and lovely. I could see the pair looking at the marvelous oak. Wonderful.
Yvonne Blake 05/20/09
I'd love to see the BIG TREE. We have some old pines around here that my children call the elephant trees. What great memories!
Jan Ackerson 05/20/09
Very strong in your descriptions, Betty--I easily get impatient with lengthy descriptive passages, but you kept my interest throughout.

In a few places, where Alicia is talking, you started a new paragraph even when she was the one continuing to talk. That threw me off a little bit, because I thought the little girl was talking next.

This was sweet, and the dialogue was very authentic. I enjoyed this a lot.
Diana Dart 05/20/09
Your descriptions were beautiful, excellent choices that brought colour, motion and form to mind. Sweet story as well, even better that the Big Tree is real!
Colin Swann05/20/09
I enjoyed this story about a mum, a daughter and a famous old tree. It certainly could tell a story, being around for hundreds of years. Thanks for sharing.

Loren T. Lowery05/20/09
Beautifully and skillfully done. Setting, dialogue, characters, plot and words in the hands of a master story teller!
Patricia Herchenroether05/20/09
A beautiful story with great mother/daughter dialogue. I wish all parents would pass on the importance of God's natural creations. Love it.
Mariane Holbrook 05/21/09
I so enjoyed this! We have live oaks here on our island but nothing quite this big. But, Betty, your descriptive phrases just bowled me over! I savored each one, paused, thought how effortlessly you put it together to form something so interesting as a portrait of this very old tree which, if it could talk, could tell stories we wouldn't believe. My friend, your writing gets better with every entry. I kid you not!