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Another Member Story

"Tree of Life"
Submitted by: Gene A. Hanselman
Chapter OH-D3

There were a lot of cool places I could "hang out" on our 365 acre farm growing up. We had two springs, a 3 acre pond and a swamp back in the big woods. There was a stream that ran through the whole property and at least 5 wooded lots with different trees, vegetation and wildlife. It was a mecca of beauty, solitude and solace. There was, however one secluded spot that made me feel like I was on top of the world, master of my domain and king of my own little realm.

When we moved to Union County in 1957 I was devastated, I had left the only home and friends I had ever known for a region that I was unfamiliar with. I always felt at home in the outdoors and especially in the woods, so I imagine that is why I sought a safe haven up along the wooded creek bank across the road. There was an old Oak tree that was about 3 foot in diameter when I first discovered it at 8 years old. I was totally unaware of how old it was but I didn't care. It had room to sit between it and the steep bank that dropped well over 20 feet down to "Buck Run Creek" and it sustained much life within its system. Squirrels had many nests in the tall limbs that rose above the creek bank. Raccoons were housed in a couple of the bigger branches that were hollow from lightening strikes killing the limbs. Different species of birds nested in the foliage of the limbs in the spring.

The roots were mined with ground hog holes and loose dirt piled over the edge. At some time a previous landowner had built a lean-to and attached it to the old tree but time had all but destroyed it, leaving 2 steel posts that gave the structure its strength. For years I rode my horse by the tree 2 times daily, herding the Holsteins to our barn for milking. The cattle wore a deep, wide path down the bank and crossed the creek at the shallows.

From that vantage point you could see my parents house, 600 yards across the creek and the valley of rich topsoil. West of my parents house was a little road where you could observe people coming to a screeching halt--they didn't remember the stop sign until they crested the hill. On the same side of the road, another 250 yards, was "Buck Run Cemetery" where the newest grave marker dated back to 1947. Just beyond that was  "Buck Run Bridge", where once stood an old covered bridge which had many of its own memories through time. Looking east you could see the farm houses for miles heading into town. It was from under that tree I sat and hunted or camped as a child and as an adult with my own children. After hot summer days of baling hay or shoveling dusty grain into bins, I would take a much needed dip in the cool stream, guarded by the shade from that tree. I sat there many times and thought about my future plans and the war in southeast Asia. I built my house not far from the old tree. My sons and I watched many deer, fox, coyote and other wild animals drink from the waters flowing under the tree. It was a  majestic place to relax, ponder thoughts and reflect back on some sad events in my life. I shall never forget the crisp, still, cold January morning I sat there quietly with a muzzle loader hunting deer.

I heard the emergency squad sirens blaring as they came from the Allen Center Station, 2 miles away. I watched them turn the corner and stop in front of Mom and Dad's house. I hustled over in time to watch the EMT's load mom into the ambulance for her last trip to town from a fatal stroke. I remember the warm November afternoon when I shot the prettiest buck I had ever seen on that land only to lose his trail and not find him until 3 days later, mangled and ripped from coyote and other predators. The auto accident I witnessed as a '57 Chevy couldn't get stopped and rolled across the road killing one person and injuring 3 other family members. At times I would take a break from field work for a cool drink under that tree and observe my friends riding their motorcycles up and down St. Rt. 245. I longed to be riding with them but the work had to be done. I wept under that tree as I readied for my move from the house I built and lived in for 50 years on that property. My health kept me from living there, I could no longer care for all the acreage, waterways or keep up with taxes and insurance. My best years were behind me, as were the trees. My old steel chair remains there for my visits.

The most saddening dilemma is for the tree itself. Erosion from all the freezing and thawing, high water from the creek and rains washing down the old cow paths has caused the earth to fade away. The grand old tree has subsided down the bank by over 3 feet. The roots are all out of the ground and mostly dead. The limbs are dying and falling off, lack of nutrients and water have taken a toll. Lightening has hit it many times and there are no animals inhabiting its structure. The strong old Oak is at its' end and will soon fall into the stream that was once its life's blood. My son will then saw it up for firewood to assist with his winter heat.

It takes a lifetime to grow a tree. That tree is as much a part of me as my family. It was my friend and confidant. Man also grows old and weathers through each passing season. We feel our weak and eroded systems breaking down and slowly decaying from within. We leave our family and friends and become a memory in time. As the old Oak has sprouted many new saplings we too leave sons and daughters to carry on our legacy and family name. The tree of life will always sustain, in one way or another and so will we.


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