Thursday, August 29, 2013


A faithful sentinel welcomes me home.
Summer ... 
Winter ...
Spring ...
... the old cottonwood opens its arms in greeting.

As pioneers came to the area in covered wagons, they homesteaded on the wide open prairies, taking advantage of the provisions set forth in the Homestead Act of 1862. Settlers also could obtain a quarter section of ground for a timber claim. Through the Timber Culture Act of 1873, a settler could pay a $14 filing fee and plant trees on 10 acres of a quarter section. After the family cared for the trees for eight years, the land became theirs. Many of the pioneers came from the eastern United States, so they were used to more plentiful trees. They hoed them and watered them. As their own children grew, their trees did, too.

Did those settlers imagine that one day the trees would provide a landmark and shade for generations to come? I don't know when the cottonwood just south of our drive was planted or whether it was part of a timber claim. If only the markings on felled trees could tell me their story like hieroglyphics on cave walls. 
It's sad to see some of these majestic old trees breath their last and topple into ditches or among their peers in windbreaks.
If only they could tell their tales. They have been the silent sentinels as the world has changed. The horse and plow gave way to the first tractors and now to machines guided by GPS.
They have been the witnesses as a father passed the mantle of leadership on the family farm to his son, generation after generation.
Two summers of prolonged drought ravaged some of these faithful witnesses to history. Underneath the bark, insects have burrowed and left their homemade hieroglyphics. As I've driven by shelterbelts the past two summers, the dead and dying trees seem more noticeable. Were the rains that fell in July and August enough to save them? Or, like people, are these trees just at the end of their long and productive lifespans?
May "snow"storm
The tree at the end of the driveway is like an old friend -
as the fluff of its white "cotton" drifts along the ditches in the spring ...
as it stands strong when the January wind rattles the ice-covered branches ...
as sunlight kisses the fall leaves with gold ...
and as birds make their nests among the bright green leaves and their song joins the music of the south wind ...

Thanks, old friend.

Advice from a tree: Stand tall. Go out on a limb.      Remember your roots. Drink plenty of water. 
Enjoy the view. 
Bear Grylls
The cottonwood on my parents' farm
For more about a special cottonwood tree on my own family farm in Pratt County, click on this link.


  1. What a beautiful tree. And love the story. That last photo is great.

  2. Thanks! The picture window at the front of my parents' house was a favorite place to watch the sunset and to watch as storms approached from the southwest. I sometimes wish for a more unobstructed view from our house, but then I guess we wouldn't have as many old trees.

  3. Hi Kim! My goodness, those burrowers really made a design on your old friend, didn't they?

    I love to think about the settlers too. All the work they had to do to clear the land, and to work it too. And all these trees! What they have seen too. It's fun to think about.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your land with us!

    1. Thanks Ceil! We watched a PBS special about the national parks last night, and I was again struck by how much "pioneers" in all fields continue to influence our lives.