Long ago I was a small seed being blown across the prairie with many other seeds. Some of us came to rest in a low spot and were covered by dust and sand – end of the trail. The rains came, we took root, and slowly I became a tree, as did some of my friends. Others became bushes, flowers and grass.
Much later settlers came and cut down some of us to lay out streets and raise buildings. Around me they built a school, and, when summer ended, it filled with small fry. I liked that, as I was on the playground. They were my friends, though they didn’t know it. They would scamper around me playing games. They climbed through me looking for bird nests and swung from my branches so much they wore away my bark. My other tree friends gave me the Indian name ‘Worn Smooth by Little Hands.’
Sometimes the teachers cut switches from me to use on the kids. I wasn’t sure about that until one was switched for trying to burn one of my branches. (I’m glad he got it.)
Kids ate their lunches around me, and teachers held classes beneath me. Of the trees for miles around, I was luckiest.
Each night while the village slept, we trees laughed and swayed at the things that had happened. The stories were so funny and life so good, we didn’t notice the years go by.
Before I could drop a leaf, the kids were teenagers arranging in secret to meet under me. These romances bloomed and thrived, sometimes interrupted by war, college, or distant jobs. Some of the young never came back; others did – to embrace under me, as I gave my blessing.
I was known at ‘the tree.’ Out-of-towners were told to look for ‘the tree.’ Families picnicked under ‘the tree.’ I showed my colors in the sweet, sad season of Fall, played possum in Winter, burst forth in Spring, and gave shade in Summer.
As time passed, the school was no longer needed; but it was so sturdy and elegant, they made it a courthouse. Some of my tree and bush friends were cut down, but I was left because I was tall and ‘part of the town.’ The playground was made into a village square with gas lamps, and stone walkways. Barbershop quartets sang there.
Now my job is to shade the old-timers on the wood and iron benches. They tell the stories I know, but which have become such ‘whoppers,’ I have to listen closely to recognize them. We grow old together. The doctors visit them; the tree surgeon me. He recently muttered, ‘It won’t be long now,’ but what does he know? He’s young and just out of school. Anyhow, I have some good lumber left. Some of me may end up in another school or courthouse here. I’d like that . . . for as much as the people loved me . . . I loved them even more.