The cottonwood trees pictured above, were planted on this farm in the spring of 1916. The man who farmed this farm at the time, and a friend of his, had gone east about one eighth mile and pulled saplings out of the sandbars of the Missouri River. They came back and populated both this farmstead and one other by the town of Herman, with baby cottonwoods. The farm there was later known as the Ranch Spur Elevator. The trees of the Ranch spur, lined the road all the way to the highway.
By the year I was born, 1950, they had considerable girth and height. My earliest remembrances were of Dad doing work under them in the hottest of weather. When we needed to take the rubber tires off of the old Oliver 77 and put steel wheels on for 'throwing in' with the 'go-devil', Dad would always do it under the shade of the cottonwoods. It was where we did everything in hot weather.
They made a 20 mph wind sound like a storm. They stood thru a lot of world history. They were standing in 4 feet of water in the great Missouri Valley flood of 52. They bent over, almost in half in some storms with tornado inspired winds. They could lose a giant pile of limbs and not show where they had come from. They saw seven kids off into the world. And welcomed them home again, no matter how long they were away.
The one thing they couldn't take was lightning. They had all fallen prey to the big zapper. Lightning takes about 5 years to kill a big cottonwood. They seem untouched at first but then after about 3 years it's obvious the tree is dying a long, slow, death. They became dangerous and we had to remove them.
The decision to take them out did not come easily. My mind kept going over everything that had happened under the trees. The history. The sessions of catch with a baseball, the new boyfriends and girlfriend that were brought home to meet Mom and Dad. Both 'us kids' and then 'our kids'. The times I walked in the shade and shed tears to try and figure out what was going wrong at the time. The times Mom or Dad must have done the same. Dad moved the family here in 1948, so the trees had been the Overseers of my life for my first fifty three years.
Here's the point of all of this,, the day before the chainsaws fired up, I got to walking the farmstead and noticing that every plant on the west side of the big trees, was somehow effected. All of the trees were almost barren on their eastern side, and most of them were bending west in search of light. All of the smaller plants were doing the same.
Yesterday I examined the remaining trees. They've had 2 years of growth since the demise of the cottonwoods. They are obviously filling out their eastern extremities, they are going up straight now. All of the plants are doing much better. There are bigger, prettier plants and flowers everywhere. They are all flourishing.
It got me to thinking how people can have the same effect on children, and organizations. If the leadership, or parenting so overshadows everything, growth of the individual is dampened. The light is being stolen, or swallowed up by the giants and growth is stifled. I guess we should stand away from the light, give them a chance to grow and prosper. New leaders will develop.