A tree as tall as my heart

Published 7:19 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

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The world looked mighty different hanging up-side-down from the stout limb of the crepe myrtle tree near the center window of my grandmother’s dining room.

Her tap-tap-tapping on the window would give way to rap-rap-rapping. But, it was not until we heard the screen door slam that, my cousin, Jimmy, and I would drop to the ground in quick retreat.

Trees were the favorite playgrounds for young’uns way back when. That was before telephones, television and not long after the miracle of flushing toilets.

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The Pond Pine at Troy University Arboretum has been certified as an Alabama Champion Tree.

In my young world, every tree was a champion tree.

Climbing trees, skinning’ the cat, riding’ saplin’s and buildin’ tree houses were among our favorite outdoor activities.

Back then we, the young’uns, went out to play as soon our feet hit the floor in the morning. Our mamas would call us in for dinner. Then, I would be out the door and down the doorsteps before Mama hollered, “Don’t let dark catch you!”

There was a big, tall china berry tree in the woods just beyond the fence row and down through the pasture.  The trees in the woods were our favorite places to play. Up in the tree, we could be anything – pirates on a ship, cowboys on the loose, Tarzan and Cheeta, “rustlers,” airplane pilots, pirates. Or we could go up to the crow’s nest and look out for wild creatures coming to eat us up, or tramps or gypsies to take us off. 

The “worstest” thing, was a mama coming with a switch.

Sometimes some of us would get mad with some of the others and take a crowbar to the tree house. For some reason, we never thought about it being our clubhouse, too.

But, trees were also our places of refuge, too. When things were going wrong and we didn’t know what to do we would “hug “a tree.

Many times, even as I got older, a tree was a place of refuge.  I would climb a tree and read. When I was sad, I would sing, say a prayer or cry.

But, for whatever reason, if my world seemed to be turning upside down, I would climb my grandmother’s crepe myrtle tree and hang upside down then the world would be right again.

I don’t know if Pike County has a champion crepe myrtle tree. But, I just might nominate my grandmother’s aging crepe myrtle. It just might be a champion tree. It’s big, but not too big to hug and … it’s as tall as my heart.