OLD TREE'S STORY PART 5


Well that’s my story. As I spend my remaining years  ....

Oh dear!  I forgot to tell you about happened in 1972? And I suppose I haven’t told you about how old I really am.

I know this story well, for I lived it and I’ve heard pieces of it told and retold since farmer Don bought the farm and started the tours. In 1972 a new property owner decided to cut his choice maple trees which grew in abundance in the 75 acre sugar bush. That winter for weeks on end, from dawn until dusk the thud of axes, the whirr of chainsaws, the rattle of horse harnesses and the staccato voices of loggers invaded our accustomed winter silence. In the end half of the prime sugar maples were felled and sold to the veneer market. The forest was devastated. Over the next twenty years the mountains of brush and treetops slowly decayed and returned to the soil, but the stumps of the great trees remain to this day, blackened by fungus and pointing skyward, a testimony to the atrocity of uncontrolled logging. Trees that weren’t maple grew in to fill the newly available space and soon the forest became as dark as the tomb that it was. Without sunlight no new maple trees sprouted for thirty-six years. Sap flow in the aging trees - trees of my generation - slowed to a trickle and then tapping stopped. And the friendly voices of long ago were gone. The field trees were spared, and I among them. You see, because we grew in the sun, we had a multitude of branches that diminished our value as timber, yet protected us from the saw.

Yes, the forest was quiet for many years; but when Farmer Don created new space in the forest a few years ago by cutting down enormous hemlocks, poplars and other species, the seeds we older trees produced burst forth and saplings began to prosper over several acres. These days thousands of small sugar maples carpet the forest floor. Younger trees are being tapped again and people visit daily in the summer months to enjoy the wonders of rebirth.


Even now, I can hear Farmer Don off in the distance telling the story to a new group of fascinated tourists.

“This is my new champion tree. Notice how many branches it has …

… Over here in this clearing, I’ve planted 150 maple whips. If all goes well, thirty – five or so of them will survive and forty years from now they’ll be big enough and strong enough to be tapped. A job for my son or maybe even my grandchildren …

…Follow me over here. I want to show you Old Tree. He’s very old, you know. He’s a little tired …missing some branches … but he’s still strong …. probably will outlive me…

… Can you guess Old Tree’s age? A tree like this grows about ¼ inch in diameter every year… Here, I have some tree calipers with me. Let’s measure him up…”

As to the question of my real age, I must confess that after 200, I lost track quite some time ago.

EPILOGUE

On July 1st, 2014 Old Tree came crashing to the ground in a freak twister. Farmer Don cut a slice from the trunk of the tree for preservation and display - a testimony to one of the largest maple trees in Charlie Burke's sugar bush.