The “Old Hickory Tree”

Today, We Lost an Old Friend

At least that is the way it feels.

The home we live in is on property that has been in my wife’s family for more than 150 years. Early in the 2000s, we purchased the property from Peggy’s Aunt and Uncle. In 2006 we decided either renovate the old house, or demolish it and build new. After an assessment of the old house, we decided to demolish it and build a new log home.

The house on the left, first built in 1915, has been added onto over the years. The house on the right is the new house. The arrows indicate the “Old Hickory Tree.”

The house on the left, first built in 1915, has been added onto over the years. The house on the right is the new house. The arrows indicate the “Old Hickory Tree.”

One of the attractive elements of the property were the mature trees in the yard—three magnificent hickory trees—two in the front yard and one on the east side of the house. One of the trees in front of the house had to come down to make room for the new house. In 2007, when we built our new home, we built closer to the tree beside the house and had it trimmed so that there were no limbs over the house. This was a shag bark (some call it “scaly bark”) hickory with twin trunks. It produced hickory nuts that are about the size of walnuts. We did not want them falling on the metal roof.

We estimate that the tree was at least 150 years old. That means tree was standing through World War II, World War I, and maybe even the Civil War. We know that it was a mature tree in 1915 when the first house was built. At the time, the property was a forest of mature mixed hardwood trees—many of which were sawed and used to build the original house. The hickory tree escaped the lumberman’s saw because hickory wood, although hard, does not weather well and is not suitable for exterior use.

The beginning of the end for the

The beginning of the end for the “Old Hickory Tree.”

Early in 2014, it was apparent that the tree was dying. Dead limbs—large limbs—were beginning to break off and fall in the driveway. It was a hazard to park vehicles under the tree, especially when there was even a minor storm.

We put off having it cut down as long as we could.

Today, the tree man came and cut down the old shag bark hickory, and I feel like I have lost an old friend. Never mind that the drive was always littered with tree bark; never mind the heavy hickory nuts banging on the barn roof; never mind the truckloads of leaves I had to rake each fall; never mind the dead limbs that threatened vehicles, the barn and the house; I still miss it.

It took only three hours to convert a 150-year-old tree into a pile of logs destined to be firewood. I have already started splitting some of the wood. It is part of the cycle of life, but it still elicits a feeling of sadness.

A five-photograph sequence of the final moments of “The Old Hickory Tree.” The stump will stay for a few years, and perhaps serve as a place to chat with family and friends, share a drink, and reminisce about the “good old days.”

A five-photograph sequence of the final moments of “The Old Hickory Tree.” The stump will stay for a few years, and perhaps serve as a place to chat with family and friends, share a drink, and reminisce about the “good old days.”

The old shagbark hickory will be missed.

But I will be able to park the car next to the house. I will no longer listen for the dreaded sound of a large limb crashing into the house or the barn every time it storms. I will have a parking area paved in gravel rather than hickory nuts and bark. And as we sit around the fire ring at the family reunion in the fall, I will remind everyone that the warmth is coming from “the old hickory tree.”

If I can say it without choking up.

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5 Responses to The “Old Hickory Tree”

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  2. I am, my friends constantly remind me, a little bit obsessed about trees; so I’ll try not to go overboard and simply say I share your sadness. I grieve even now for the big old flowering cherry we had to fell five years ago. Like your hickory it was close to natural death, and threatening to fall, but I still miss its dazzling springtime display and I like to think there is a fragment of root down there waiting to be reborn.

  3. merlinjr01 says:

    I understand completely. Today, I am going to continue the process of creating firewood from the Old Hickory tree. And thank your for your comment.

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