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To kill a maple tree.


Last Saturday morning I wasmaking the coffee when I heard that terrible sound of the chain saw across the land. Someone was at a tree.

It was a neighbor across thestreet cutting down a 100-year-old maple on the corner of his lot nearest us. Our house was built in 1886 and there are five trees like his on our property, so I suppose the tree was originally on land that went with our house.

This wasn't a good year formaple trees. The leaves on two of ours began looking dried and yellow during late August. I called the tree man and asked him to come and look at them. He said he would but he didn't. I didn't call him again. I figure that if the trees have survived 100 years, they've been through all the droughts and floods and had most of the diseases that would have killed them by now. I like my trees a lot.

I like the tree our neighborcut down, too, even though it wasn't really mine. I say "really mine" because I think of old trees in the neighborhood as common assets that are not so much owned by anyone but shared by all.

The neighbor who cut the tree,with the help of anothe rman who knew how, seems like a good fellow. I don't know him except to say hello to, but he has two nice little kids and an attractive wife, and he keeps his place looking neat and clean.

The neighbor'shouse was built in what is really the side yard of another, older house. The two houses are much too close together because several years ago some real-estate sharper split the lot. We don't have zoning regulations that amount to much, and when the zoning board makes a decision, it always seems as though there must be foxes guarding the chicken coop. It didn't seem possible that anyone would build a house on that lot, but there is it, without a tree now.

At first I wasn't sure whetherthey were cutting down the tree or just trimming off some dead limbs. After breakfast I wandered out into our driveway, walked a little way up the street, and tentatively approached the scene of the slaughter. It was apparent now they were cutting down the tree.

"That tree's been there a longtime," I said, trying not to sound unfriendly.

"It's in bad shape," theneighbor said.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"I didn't want to take anychances," he said.

I saw the house he lives in beingbuilt several years before he bought it, and it's my opinion his house is more likely to fall down in a high wind than that maple tree was.

By noon the trunk of the treehad been severed at its base. It was 30 inches in diameter. I looked at the wood, and obviously the tree had been eating that morning, sucking sustenance through its xylem and phloem. It was wet with sap and solid as a rock.

Just as soon as a tree is cut, Ibegin thinking of it as lumber. I like lumber almost as much as I like trees. It's the same dilemma I face as an animal lover who enjoys steak.

The man with the chain sawwas cutting this beautiful wood, not into lumber but into fireplace logs.

It seemed like a little tragedyto me. I don't know why there are any trees at all left in populated areas. In a tree's lifetime there must be dozens of occasions when someone thinks about cutting it down for one inconsequential reason or another. It takes so little time to kill a tree by cutting it off at its base and it takes so long for a tree to grow to 30 inches in diameter. It ought to be necessary to get a permit to cut down a tree more than 50 years old.

The neighbor who cut the treewon't stay in the house for long. It isn't the kind of house you love and cherish. It's the kind you move away from when you have the money.

The people who follow myneighbor in that house will never know about the tree, but the house will always be just a little less because it's gone.
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Title Annotation:appreciation of trees
Author:Rooney, Andy
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1987
Previous Article:Talking is their game.
Next Article:Teen-agers and the calcium crisis.

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