I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray,
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair
Upon whose blossom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems were made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.–Joyce Kilmer
Recently, it came to my attention that an old oak tree in my hometown of Youngsville, LA was going to be sacrificed for a TEMPORARY by-pass road to build a much-needed road improvement project. However, the tree was never threatened by the new road and intersection “round-about”, just the temporary road needed to keep the intersection opened for the 30-60 days for the project to be completed.
To put this in proper context, you have to understand the value of the live oaks of Southwest Louisiana. They are not only steeped in history, as many of them supercede the existence of the state of Louisiana and even the country of the United States itself. The live oak in question is estimated to be at least 150 years old and could be more than 250 years old, based on its’ 14 ft. thickness.
It’s just a tree, right? True, enough. However, it’s also a symbol. A symbol of a strong and proud heritage. That tree stood when Attakapas Indians still roamed the plains of Louisiana. Generations of Cajuns (and visitors) passed that tree over its history. When Dr. Young, who the town is named after, searched for a homestead, no doubt this tree attracted him with its protective branches from the un-air-conditioned summer heat. No doubt, my grandparents passed that tree in their horse and buggy on the ride they took when my grandfather proposed to her. Both of my uncles likely looked back at that tree when they went off to war, and lovingly gazed upon it when they returned.
There is a certain love affair with trees, especially old ones, for the memories they invoke. Perhaps that’s why Cajuns are so tied to their old oaks. Like the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville, helping a lovelorn maiden hold on to her long, lost love…
These majestic creatures have endured the test of time to provide the backdrop of our lives. This past weekend, I traveled to my hometown and everywhere I went, the oaks seemed to remind me that one of their own needed help.
I did something that I’d been promising to do. I went to the place where I grew up…on seven acres, complete with ponds and wonderful, triumphant oaks. Growing up, there were a pair of oak trees on our property that were over 250 years old when we lived there. The property had belonged to my father’s great-grandparents and were likely rooted at the time they lived there. My grandfather did surgery on one of them to save it back in the 1930′s. I joyfully played make-believe among them as a child. My sister married beneath them in 1979. Luckily, the people who developed the subdivision recognized the value of these old oaks and chose to highlight them, rather than chop them down for another lot. They are simply…spectacular.
So many trees, so many memories, so much history.
It made me ponder how anyone could allow such a symbol and a living testament to God’s magnificence to be chopped down, murdered in affect. Now, hear me…I am not an activist nor do I consider myself an envrionmentalist. I get it. But, this time there is an alternative. The intersection at Hwy 89 and Hwy 92 in Youngsville, LA can be closed for a brief period of time to allow the road construction to be completed, or the temporary by-pass CAN be re-routed. However, the “City” Council and Mayor have chosen to be close-minded regarding the situation and now even claim that the citizens of Youngsville don’t even care if the tree comes down. If you agree with the city government, well…to each his own. But, if you don’t, PLEASE let your voice be heard. Call the City Council @ 337-856-4181 or click here for email addresses for the City Council and Mayor. Also, click here to sign our online petition to show your support for saving the tree so that City Government cannot claim that the citizens of Youngsville “don’t care”.
There is a possibility for moving the tree (not an overall preference, but a lesser of two evils). Helping to raise the more than $250,000 needed to move the tree, is artist George Rodrigue. He has graciously donated his talent to paint the oak and produce prints for sale for $500 each, with proceeds going to Guardian of the Oaks — an organization fighting to protect our leafy legends.
George’s wife, Wendy, also has a great blog that highlights Rodrigue’s work and causes. He is a great testament to his heritage. Thank you, sir, for your support.
ETA: Here is Rodrigue’s finished art work of the Youngsville Oak. Visit his Foundation website for more information on purchasing. I’m already on the list.