Dart: Oak tells story ‘as beautiful as poem’

Published 8:05 pm Monday, June 23, 2014

This champion tree is one of two grand trees located on Jean Barr's property in rural Pike County.

This champion tree is one of two grand trees located on Jean Barr’s property in rural Pike County.

Jean Barr thinks she will never see a poem as lovely as a tree.

The beauty of the live oak tree that has stood like a sentry at the north gate of Banks since before the War Between the States actually takes Barr’s breath away.

Barr knows those who travel along busy Highway 93 on the outskirts of Banks probably won’t agree with her. All the century oak shows to the passersby is its “ugly” side and its unwilling intrusion into the highway.

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“We don’t know how old the tree is but stories are that, during the Civil War, soldiers sat beneath its branches and ate their lunch,” Barr said. “It was a huge oak when we moved here and we’ve been here a longtime.

“It’s one of the must beautiful trees I’ve ever seen … when looking at it from our front porch. But coming down the highway … you don’t see its beauty. In fact, it’s not pretty at all.”

What happened to mar the beauty of the stately live oak was the dance called progress.

As utility lines were being strung across the countryside, trees had to give way to progress and the live oak surrendered limbs to the cause.

“Dick asked that as few limbs be cut as possible but what happened was all the limbs below and right above the lines were cut, leaving a top-sided, lop-sided tree arching over the highway. It looks awkward to those who pass by and wonder, what and why? But, from our front porch, it is beautiful.”

Not only is the live oak “beautiful from the front porch,” it could possibly qualify as an Alabama Champion Tree.

“A man came from Auburn University and said the live oak could probably qualify and he also said that our seedling pecan tree should qualify. He had never seen a seedling pecan that big.”

The massive pecan tree was the Barrs’ “entertainment center.”

“Every afternoon, we would sit out and watch the squirrels run and play in the tree,” Barr said. “They could go from one tree to the other all around the house and never touch the ground. The tree was full of squirrels and we had the best time watching them play. It was our picture show.”

Barr said a raccoon also lived in the tree.

“Every now and then, he would poke his head out and let us get a glimpse of him,” she said. “He was playful land it was a lot of fun to watch him, too.”

The Barrs’ hopes of having the live oak and seedling pecan trees designated as champion trees came crashing down last week when the pecan tree suddenly split in half.

“It just came down,” Barr said. “We no idea or any warning. It just split.”
All that’s left of the huge seedling pecan is a stump where hopefully the squirrels and raccoon will continue play.

“But it won’t be the same,” Barr said. “We’re sad to lose it but we’re still hopeful that the live oak will be recognized as a champion tree. But, if not, it will still be more beautiful than any poem I know.”