Barbecue time will mean sun screen time for Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley. Find out why in today's A Little Salt.
Like in many other parts of Hannibal, on May 20 of last year a tree in my yard fell victim to the high winds that blew through town. However, unlike many other locations in river city, instead of the whole tree being uprooted, only a section of the tree came down.
While most of the estimated 50-year-old silver maple in my yard remained standing, I was concerned that the part that had snapped was the center section, or “crown,” of the tree. People knowledgeable in regard to trees said the damage that had been done made it susceptible to disease in the long term, and more prone to losing another major section of the tree when the next wind-filled storm rolls through.
This past week tree cutters began the process of reducing the tree into so much firewood.
As one might expect, the cutting down of such a formidable tree has caught the attention of some of my neighbors. However, strangely silent so far is the neighbor who about had a stroke last year when we dug out two bushes from the front of our house.
Not all our “neighbors” understand our actions. My wife, Nancy, reported seeing a squirrel sitting in a nearby tree and staring as the workmen brought down a portion of our maple.
As for me, I was outside on Friday when I spied a robin giving me what I perceived to be the “stink eye” as it hopped toward the maple. After getting within a foot or so of the tree, I kid you not, the bird flew up about 2 feet up on what remained of the tree’s trunk and fluttered its wings.
While I do not claim to be Dr. Dolittle and can understand what birds and animals are saying, I felt confident in translating the robin’s “statement” as: What were you thinking?
Although I’m sure Nancy and I made the right decision, it’s still hard to see the tree come down and know the environment of my yard will be changed, if not forever, for however long it takes to grow another tree.
I know for a fact how the loss of one tree can impact a yard. A few years ago we were forced to have an old catalpa tree removed from our front yard. A section of its upper branches had died years earlier and we were confident that it was hollowing out. As with the maple tree, we were concerned that a bad ice storm or high winds would either bring it down in the street, or worse, on our house.
But it was so hard to say goodbye to the canopy of shade-providing, large green leaves the catalpa provided every year. Little did I know how important the shade cast by the tree was.
On the south side of our house is the patch of earth my bride cultivates most years, planting spinach, lettuce or tomatoes. For years the patch also featured a number of strawberry plants, which always provided us with a few bowls of sweetness. However, not long after the catalpa tree disappeared, so did most of the strawberry plants. I can only assume the loss of shade provided by the tree did in those plants.
And while we have no strawberry plants to bake in the back yard, I’m certain the maple’s loss of shade will be greatly noticed this summer. Instead of being bathed in shade from roughly noon on, the rear of our house will now be in direct sunlight until late in the day. Needless to say, my budget manager is already dreading to see what the maple’s departure will mean to our electric bill.
I’ll also miss the maple when I barbecue. Up until now, I’d always drag the grill into the tree’s shade. As I found out Friday, there will be nowhere to hide this summer when I cook outside. I’ll just need to make sure and wear a ballcap to protect my balding head and to smear lots of sunscreen on everything else that’s exposed.