The Burr Oak
The Burr Oak
This day began like most other days. But the planned events made this particular day one that proved to be out-of-the-ordinary. This morning, a woodcutter would come and remove a landmark that had towered over our farm for as long as any of us could remember.
For an unknown number of years the monster Burr Oak tree sheltered our family from winter’s howling blast and summer’s scorching heat. Farm cats and their kittens climbed up its trunk and onto its hefty branches. Birds such as orioles, robins, and cardinals found a myriad of perches behind its fluttering leaves. The lowest, massive branch held an old-fashioned swing made of a wooden seat and a strong, thick rope. Generations of children whirled and twirled on that swing beneath its thick canopy of shade. Sadly, it became evident to us that the tree was dying and had to be removed.
On this crisp, cool day in January, white snow adorned the oak’s naked branches. Even the snow-covered dead branches displayed their beauty. As I looked out of my kitchen window, the tree’s boughs framed the snowy scene outside. The blue sky as a backdrop made it a lovely sight.
Our tree’s life spanned over a century till it reached it full height of about 40 feet at maturity. Its long-reaching boughs stretched over the yard for a similar distance. One photograph, taken in 1919, is witness to its great height even then.
It produced thousands of fertile acorns every two years. Most seeds were not allowed to take root. However, expecting the inevitable, we let our young son plant and protect two of the tree’s seedlings. Now they, too, can shelter and provide beauty on our 165-year-old farm.
The lumberman had a well thought out plan. His goal was to down the oak without damaging the farmhouse and the two daughter trees nearby. With careful and responsible thoughts he considered each branch with wisdom.
He moved his boom truck into place. The boom lengthened to safely lift him into position. It is a perfect example of man’s machines rising to meet the challenge of shearing off each branch.
The sprawling branches that had skirted the horizon for so long would be the first to go. Short boughs that reached closest to the house were taken in hand and let down to the ground. Very few twigs lightly touched the roof in their descent. Dead branches slipped through the tender branches of the daughter trees with no damage. The boughs reaching heavenward would be the last to go.
As the sturdy weights, supported for decades, dropped away one by one, the echoes of branches falling rumbled through the farmhouse. Each limb made a thunderous drop and bounced as it thudded to the ground.
Up, up the lumberman continued his work. The chain saw buzzed and screeched as it labored digging and cutting into the wood. One slice from beneath its woody target and the next slice from above the bough and its task was complete. One limb after another succumbed to the powerful tool. On the ground he sheared off small side branches from larger branches that had fallen.
Soon heavy limbs and scraggly small branches littered the ground beneath the tree’s crown. Clean-up time had come. The John Deere B skidded away the woody debris tethered to the tractor with a logging chain. Loyally, Samson, our white German Shepherd, trotted behind the little parade to the pasture time and again till the clean-up job was done.
The majestic tree, shorn of its proud, sturdy branches, stood alone, an erect log awaiting the final blow. The last cut made, down came the massive trunk. As it landed, the earth shook beneath my feet. The glass in the window before me vibrated.
We miss that tree. We saved a cross-section of it. It indicates that our Burr Oak was a seedling in the 1850s. That is near the time of our farm’s founding. Looking back, the past is not really that far away, is it?
Busy Day Chicken
1 (2½ – 3½ lb.) fryer chicken, cut up
1 can mushroom soup
1½ cans water
1 package of Lipton dry onion soup or dry mushroom soup
Scatter raw rice in bottom of a greased 9×13 inch pan or casserole. Lay chicken pieces on top of rice. (Skin side should be up.) Mix together mushroom soup, water and onion soup. Pour over chicken. Bake at 325º for about 2 ½ hours.