Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hello, Old Friend!

Someone's sitting in the shade today 
because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
- Warren Buffet

The cottonwood tree seems to open its arms as I drive toward home. Its familiar branches wave hello and goodbye as we hurriedly pull in and out of our south driveway. As I come through the canopy of trees to the south, I look up to see what one of my favorite "friends" is wearing.

At a glance, the tree is still dressed in its summer finery. The green leaves still shimmer in the fall morning. But, like me, the cottonwood seems to be pulling out its fall wardrobe, a little at a time.

I love the craggy old cottonwood. This place has been home to Randy & I for 29 years now. For all that time, the cottonwood has been like a faithful sentinel, standing tall at the driveway. Like us, it may not be quite as sturdy as it seemed almost three decades ago. Some of its appendages are creaky, tired and bent. But it still stands, waving and bending in the wind, rain and snow - whatever hardships come its way.

I have a lifetime love of cottonwoods. At the house where I grew up, an old cottonwood also stands near the south driveway. The cottonwood tree has been one of the first things visitors see as they approach the farmstead and one of the last things you see silhouetted by a sunset sky at night.
Cottonwood at my childhood home, Pratt County
Every spring, the cotton from the tree covered the ground. My sisters and I used both the cotton and the green unopened pods to decorate mud pies.
In this photo dated April 1963, I was 5, Lisa was 4 and Darci was 1 1/2. I have fond memories of adding just the right amount of water to dirt and then pouring it into pie tins and buckets. The fluffy white cotton and the green pods were just the right finishing touch. It was all about presentation, even back before knowing anything about garnishing via the Food Network chefs.

The cottonwood tree still stands at my childhood home, where it has sunk deep roots into the Kansas soil for the past 70 years or so.

(Dad - Age 10)

My dad was born at that Pratt County farmstead. When he was about 10, he helped his mom plant six or eight cottonwood trees. They went to the Rattlesnake Creek somewhere south of Dillwyn and picked out some trees growing volunteer along the creek banks.

My grandma was a young widow, and the trees were free. A few of the trees didn't survive the transplanting. Others were removed when my folks built the new house. (It's kind of ironic that we still call it the new house when we moved in when I was 6!)

I've always loved our home and the setting here on the Stafford/Reno County line. Having a cottonwood at the south drive - just like when I was a child - may have a little something to do with that. Our mailbox rests under its massive branches.
The leaves of the cottonwood tree whisper as I walk out of the driveway for a morning walk.
While the cottonwood tree is holding onto its summer wardrobe, a vine offers a touch of red, a contrast against the brilliant blue fall sky. We bought the farmstead from the Johnsons, so I suppose it was one of their ancestors who planted the tree and watered it, just like my Dad & Grandma did so many years ago on another Kansas farm.

And I am thankful.
Perhaps you have noticed that even
in the very lightest breeze,
you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree.
--Black Elk


  1. Oh I LOVE the cottonwood tree but your words are magical. I love this old trees history. Hug B

    1. Thank you, B! Old trees have such character, don't they?