I hope you all enjoy this
THE OLD TREE
© Vickey Stamps 7-8-2012
It stood on its low hill, overlooking the valley of lush greenness. The gnarling process in its
trunk and branches had already began. Even its branches lifted to the heavens, had twisted
and turned, as they spread above the earth beneath it. Mother earth had nourished it well,
for it lived on, as if having a pulse within. It had spent empty years watching the few
travelers passing its way. Now it looked at the riderless horses and the man who stood in
their midst. The noise of a corral being built had fallen upon the old tree’s ears for many days.
Now at last it was completed.
An old, lean-to house, shack like, in its appearance, lay to the east of the corral. It was built
there so that the sun might shine on it, on a warm day. There was a woman on the steps calling in
the man for the last meal of the day. They’d married against his will. He had wanted a better
home, a better start then this for a bride, but she’d convinced him not to wait. Soon that night,
as those nights to follow, they’d lay beneath the quilt the ladies from her old and far away home
had made for their wedding. They’d talk of their future. The tree’s limbs moved in the evening
breeze, and at last, it slept as well.
Thomas wanted some cattle to run, and to build into a herd. He’d felt the need to raise some horse stock. It had been a life-long dream. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he also knew he’d been
given the strength and faith to make it happen. He and the Lord were partners. Sometimes a man needed time alone, a time of isolation those in his life wouldn’t always understand.
He had taken up talking to the old tree on the hill. It enjoyed the visits, sometimes wishing it
could voice an answer back to the man, as he spoke on things of mankind and the needs that both
blessed and troubled one as they built a life.
‘Old Tree’ had become its official name in the conversations, as the years had passed. The herd
had grown large and fine in quality. A small group of cattle ranged about the acreage that
surrounded the home and tree. Fences had sprawled out across the land, and the lean-to was no
more, being replaced by additional rooms as the children came. He built a bunkhouse for the men he would
need to hire, that would help him build what would be a ranch.
“Hello ‘Old Tree’” Thomas had spoken. “I been thinking on what an awesome responsibility the
good Lord has given me. I been reading in His word and it tells me I gotta honor my wife and all
those babies coming along. I gotta lead them to do the things honorable and right. I have to do
all that. And ‘Old Tree,’ I just ain’t sure I got the strength. I’m wondering if I can be as strong
as you seem to be. He’d bowed his head in a prayer. Now he patted the tree, as if it had become
a good friend. I see you got some acorns growing. Whatcha gonna do with all of them? Guess
you’ve heard all the birth cries of the three I got now.
Look down there. Little Jesse’s gotten loose from his Ma and come out looking for me. He’s five
now, you know. His two older brothers ain’t much older. They’ll be a help to me on this place,
you know, when they grow a bit bigger in the britches.” Thomas went down the hill, grabbing up
Jesse by the arms, swinging him in a circle like a merry-go-round, laughing with him in the brief
time when work and cares stopped. He reckoned moments like these, were vital to happiness.
Now he put him on his shoulders, taking him back to his Ma.
The years had gone so fast. Two girl babies had come to bless their life, and the oldest of the
two was eight now, home spun skirts sweeping the floor upon which they worked, helping their
Ma, Elizabeth, the best they could. The conversations went on and more times then one, it was
when sickness come and troubles threatened the man, who was now growing old and could be seen kneeling at the foot of the old tree. Sometimes he’d bring the Bible and read to the old tree, of
the words within it. The tree kept its silence, but in its tree heart, heard it all. It wished it
could wrap a gentle limb around the man during the tough times and comfort him, but of course
it could not do that.
“Old Tree” the man spoke, “Looks like you been doing your share in this old world. I’ve seen a
beginning grove of young saplings, sprung up from your acorns, growing down the road a bit.
Ive done my share too. I know you see my own style of acorns, down there to my home. They warm my heart.
You’ve changed a lot ‘Old Tree’. I see the bumps on the branches, like there were trials in
your own life. Poor old guy, I oughta cut you down. Your wood, would make a fine table for
my Elizabeth. I’ve not given her much, but she's strong, smiles and continues on. Life is hard
‘Old Tree’, but I reckon you know that, as well as me. I’ll not cut ya down. You’ve become like
a friend after all these years. The tree kept its silence, as always, but knew when all was
silent and the night dark, it would lift itself in a gentle sigh, thinking on it all.
Land had been cleared beside the tree and beneath the rich soil, rested Elizabeth and little
Timothy. He hadn’t been strong enough to survive the pangs of birth and Elizabeth hadn’t been
willing to let him go on alone. She’d patted Thomas's hand, and made him promise to be strong for the
five children that would be left without her. “Timothy needs me Thomas. You’ll be fine.”
Having said so, Elizabeth had, as Timothy, already had done, surrendered her soul, to the
Creator. The old tree looked down upon them now, knowing the small fenced in area they
rested in, would grow larger as time passed. It had looked down upon Thomas, crying out his
heart in the missing of his helpmate and baby son. Life was just too hard, he thought. Again,
the tree wished it could do something to help, but could not.
The winter of life had come upon the man, now grown older and his body no longer stood so tall
and was bent. His steps had begun to shuffle a bit. His girls had become young women and
young men had come to court. Thomas wanted to run them off with his shotgun, but knew that
wasn’t a good thing, so he’d settle with his pipe in Elizabeth’s parlor, and tell the girls to ‘stick
with their knitting’ and had the boys sit in a small and separate chair. Eventually he’d doze off
and the couple would slip out to sit on the porch swing and talk of their tomorrows and what
the future could hold. Now, Thomas, rested beside Elizabeth, with their Timothy. Matthew,
their second son lay to the left of them, having fallen victim to a long and bitter war.
Jacob and Isaiah, were doing a fine job on the ranch. Each in turn, following the example of
their father, would come to talk and share the day with the old oak tree. It had grown
even older and far more gnarled, with the gift of time. Jacob was the younger and married,
as was, Isaiah. Isaiah, being the oldest, stayed on at the big house. Together they’d built a
home for the newlyweds, off to the side of the ranch.
The girls had married and sometime’s when they’d visit the fenced area and its occupants, the
youngsters would play below the tree. It wished it could smile upon them. It felt the smile
anyway and that would be enough. The sounds of children’s laughter caressed it like a ray of
sunlight that felt warm to the tree. It felt so much a part of the life of all these humans.
Once again, the night came and those within it slept, for morning came early and the work
waited for no one. The tree gave a great sigh, shifting its arms ever so lightly.
Tomorrow was another day...
LIFE WAS GOOD.