The place was named Shadow Lawn Farm. At one time an expansive place with livestock including cows, pigs, chickens and horses. There was a two story bank barn in days of yore. The second story disappeared somewhere along the line and it became a one story barn with horse stalls and a place for tractors. And a garage. Then there was the house. A two story place made of stone dug out of the fields as the farmers worked the land.
No telling what the first place looked like, logs and mud maybe, but the original stone house was a two over two built in 1863. Over the years it was expanded, still using the stone as a building material. And then expanded more using wood. Porches were added, and covered up, until it looked like a stone center with wings spreading out in every direction. All based on the two foot thick stone walls of the original.
And from the beginning, out in the front yard, grew the little tree. But now, after all these years, I couldn’t possibly get my arms around its trunk. In fact, I believe that my full six foot arm span wouldn’t cover its diameter! With its numerous branches, from the ground up, and its sixty foot wide canopy, it casts one hell of a shadow across the lawn. Get it? Shadow Lawn Farm.
It’s not just any old tree though. I’m pretty sure someone long ago planted this beauty. Not an oak or maple or even hickory or elm. This is a copper beech. And a magnificent specimen it is! The largest in the county! I’ve only ever seen one larger. That one is so big that where its lowest branches have dipped to touch the ground, new trees have sprung up, themselves now with branches nearing the ground. That tree is protected from any onslaught by being located on a college campus. Carefully tended.
My tree grows in the yard. It touches the house. And reaches its branches out over the road in front. Keep in mind that the house sits over a hundred feet from the road. But running along the side of the road is the electric company power line. Quite a danger for a tree. No, the tree won’t get electrocuted. But the power company doesn’t like trees. The branches give squirrels a way to get to transformers to commit suicide. And black out the neighborhood. And the branches can fall off the trees and snap the power lines. Especially when everything’s weighed down with ice in the winter. So every once on a while the power company comes along with a whirring buzz saw and mangles anything near its power lines.
Except the copper beach. For nearly forty years my parents have stood guard over that tree. Recognizing its beauty. Grandeur. And significance. You can hear the power company coming for miles. And every time, my mother or my father would wait at the edge of their property to meet the power people. They would tell them about the tree. About its beauty. And significance. And every time, the power company people would get out a pair of pruning shears and gently take out a twig or two. Just enough for the power cable to run through the middle of the tree unobstructed.
If I remember correctly, in the winter the bare branches form a crazy maze of avenues. Spring brings leaves of purple. In the summer they turn green. And in the fall, oh, in the fall they turn that magnificent copper color and shimmer in the sunlight. Spectacular to see. And each year it grows a little taller, and wider, and closer o the ground.
My parents are moving this spring, before the leaves emerge. I don’t know if new owners of the homestead will know about the shadow lawn farm. But they will see the tree. The question is, will they intercept the power company buzz saw to preserve the tree? And its beauty.
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