Whitesburg KY
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Mostly cloudy

Persimmon tree brought many years of pleasure

Points East

In the spring of 1995, Loretta and I were parked in the road in front of the house we now live in here on Charlie Brown Road. We didn’t own it at the time and really didn’t know who did, but it was empty and my wife was already making a long list of stuff that had to be fixed.

The door had been left open on a previous stop and Loretta had nosed in and discovered this wonderful hardwood floor. Some women her age fall in love with Burt Reynolds and Harrison Ford. Loretta has a penchant for antique beech and chestnut, even if it has 40 coats of cheap varnish that need removing.

Anyway, she figured the house was probably for sale because nobody in their right mind would rent it in the shape it was in. So we are sitting there in the road and she’s talking about windows and I’m saying, “Man alive! Would you look at the size of that persimmon tree?”

“We’d have to replace the roof,” she said matter of factly, pointing at a piece of flapping tin two stories up.

“I had no idea persimmon trees grew anywhere near that big,” I said.

“And the steps are crumbling,” she said. “We’d have to get some new ones poured because it’s really just as cheap to pour them in a solid form as it is to mess around with blocks and mortar.”

“I’ll bet a man could get several five-gallon buckets of persimmons off that thing every fall,” I said.

“And that old black tree there at the corner needs to be cut down before it falls on the house,” she said.

“Do you like persimmons, Baby? What tree needs to come down?” I bellow.

“The one you’re gawking at,” she said. “You don’t listen to a thing I say.”

“If somebody so much as looks at that tree with a chain saw in his hand, I will shoot him on sight,” I told her.

“Okay. You can keep the tree when we buy the house. Is that a deal?” she asked.

It was and so, to make a long story short, we found out who owned it and, as it turned out, bought a hardwood floor and built a house around it. Our marriage just barely survived the ordeal, but we’re still here.

In the meantime I learned that at least two fellows in their 90s could remember when the house was just four – two up and two downstairs – rooms, long before the dining room, kitchen, utility rooms, etc., were built on. But they could not remember when the persimmon tree was not here.

“It’s always looked about that big to me,” says Dan Ledford, who has lived in Paint Lick since before automobiles came to town.

Over the last 12 years, I’ve had as many as four bird feeders dangling from the lower limbs at one time. The kids have called it Finch City, but robins, cardinals, orioles and even bluejays have nested and hatched off young in the upper branches since we have lived here. Flickers, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers have made much use of the dozens upon dozens of suet blocks I’ve kept attached to its trunk year round, as have nuthatches, sparrows, chickadees, and numerous other species of songbirds that don’t immediately come to mind.

In autumn, people have driven from surrounding counties to pick up its fruit here on the lawn and last fall I even mailed some to out-of-state friends who crave a taste of the homeland now and then.

But the big wind last week finally took down my persimmon tree, even though it had withstood the storms of more than 100 years. Its tap root had rotted hollow and its strength had been inconspicuously waning. It didn’t up-root. It simply broke below ground and fell like a rock where it now covers the entirety of my garden.

The lower trunk is hollow, though I’d never have guessed that, and I’m thinking that maybe some clever crafts person or bowl maker in Berea might be interested in salvaging it for some sort of use. I’d hate to see it burned, and, for that matter, I’m still grieving way too much to even think about firing up my own saw.

It’s almost like losing a member of the family. I’ll miss the birds for sure and I’ll miss munching on the tangy fruit after the first good frost of autumn and I’ll miss the shade there on that end of the porch. I’ll miss propping up my garden tools against it and I’ll miss the place I’ve always leaned to take time out and watch the garden grow.

But mostly I will miss the tree for its very being. Our front yard looks barren and empty. The house will never look the same to me.

Over the years, many people have stopped by every spring to dig up seedlings that sprout from the seeds of fruit we didn’t manage to pick up. My old tree is the proud parent of saplings that I know are living everywhere from Georgia to northern Michigan.

I even mailed some to Pennsylvania and New Jersey just last year.

This spring I’ll be planting a whole row of them around the boundary of our property and hoping that a hundred years from now they’ll provide the same satisfaction to future generations and lovers of old trees that this old saint has given me.

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