Here in the South, many stately old oak trees still dot our landscapes. If not hampered by storms or man, these old oaks can live for hundreds of years. Why, some have lived up to a thousand years.
Oak trees provide shade, wood products, oxygen to the atmosphere, erosion control, and even acorns for us and the animals.
One such sturdy oak has been on our property for as long as I care to remember. Was it planted as a seedling? I have my doubts, but it probably came from a single acorn that a squirrel buried in years past. It doesn’t stand in our yard but at the edge of a sandhill swamp.
Back in the 1940s, my grandparents needed a tobacco barn close to their fields. They figured building the barn beside the big oak would help provide the needed shade for the farm workers during the hot summer months. Little did they realize what else the large oak might provide.
Beside the barn and under the oak was where the large oil tank which supplied oil to the burners inside the barn was placed. Why, I remember in years past that Mr. Jack Swink would drive his oil truck down the long dirt road to fill our oil drum. He and I would have the most interesting conversations while he filled the tank in the shade of the tree.
I would always ask him, “Mr. Swink, do you think you will have any trouble getting back up the tobacco hill with your oil truck?”
You see there was a steep hill from my grandparent’s house to the tobacco barn. The road on the hill was pure sand and had deep ruts caused by pulling heavy tobacco sleds through it.
Mr. Swink would always tell me, “J.A., I’m going to back up against this oak tree and get myself a good running start and go right up that hill.” And he did too.
As the years went by, many a person, and even mules, rested and cooled down beneath the shade of the old oak. Why if’n that tree could talk, it might tell you about how I almost set the barn on fire with firecrackers. It might even talk about the time I sat under its branches soaking my foot in kerosene because I accidentally shot myself in the foot with a .22 rifle. It might have even shed a tear when I had the old tobacco barn bulldozed down because it was falling in.
As years went by, I could find myself sitting under the old oak thinking about how to solve some of life’s problems. Seems the old tree would stand and listen to every thought I had.
A year ago, when I had the timber cut on the place, the loggers asked if I wanted to cut the big oak down. A quick “No sir” came out of my mouth! Why it would be like taking down an old friend that had been there for me through the years.
Through the years the old oak has provided shade for the banks of our farm pond and even shaded several hog pens. Its acorns were shared with the hogs and ain’t no telling how many squirrels have feasted in and around the large oak.
Today, as I walk around the farm, I can course my directions from looking for the old oak because it is the tallest tree around.
The old oak tree is just one of millions upon millions of things the Good Lord has blessed us with on this earth. You see, everything, even a tree, has its purpose whether we recognize it or not.
J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and just released his new book, “Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories,” all of which can be purchased locally or on Amazon. Contact him at email@example.com.