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The tree and the wind

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article

By Christine Tailer
HCP columnist

The box elder stood solidly by the upper edge of the upper field for many, many years. It leaned gracefully out from the wooded hillside, reaching for the sunshine, and growing old and strong. 

When city folks purchased the farmland where the tree stood, they decided to raise rabbits, and raise rabbits they did. They built a tall, long, hutch and placed it at the upper edge of the upper field under the tree. All throughout the year, the morning sun rose over the hill across the creek and shown warmly into the hutch, and in the heat of summertime afternoons, the box elder provided cooling shade to the hutch’s inhabitants. The old tree worked its way into the city folks’ hearts and earned their appreciation.

All was well, and generations of rabbits were bred and born in the hutch, much to the city folks’ delight, though after twenty years they believed that they had become rather countrified. They even exclaimed to any who happened to stop by, that wild horses couldn’t drag them back to an urban life. They had learned to tend not only rabbits, but homing pigeons, horses, cattle, goats, sheep, chickens and honeybees, and of course they grew a large garden and learned how to farm their fields.

One day, one of their sons sent his two young daughters to visit the creek valley without any parental supervision. The girls were really quite urban, but they were so excited to learn and quickly adjusted to their grandparents’ farm life. One child fell completely in love with the baby goats and would spend hours sitting beside them in their nursery, letting them eat out of her hand. The other child fell in love with the rabbits, and every morning, took it upon herself to give them a special treat of alpha hay and scratch between their ears. The week of their visit passed quickly.

The weather that week could not have been any more perfect. Warm breezes blew up the valley, and blue skies passed by over the hills. Deer grazed the the hay fields. Birds called from the hillsides, and there was just enough water in the creek for splashing about and cooling off in the afternoon, but on the very last day of the girls’ visit, the forecast called for storms.

A gentle rain began to fall after dinner. In time, the girls settled down to sleep. The grandparents did too, until they were awakened by a long, reverberating, thunderous crack. They both sat up in bed, but a torrential rain was falling outside. They could hear a strong wind blowing up the valley and rain was beating against the windows. The girls did not wake up, and their grandparents fell back to sleep.

The rain and wind finally stopped, and just as daylight began to fill the valley, a quick look out the upstairs windows revealed that the old box elder behind the rabbit hutch had cracked in two and fallen out into the upper field. Clearly, it had crashed down upon the hutch and come to rest with its branches on top of and surrounding the pigeon gazebo.

The grandparents donned their boots and hurried outside. How could they ever tell their sweet granddaughters that the rabbits and pigeons were no more? The grandfather had apparently hurried a bit faster than his wife, and just as she was putting on her boots by the basement door, he returned. 

She looked up expectantly. “Come look,” he said.

She followed him outside to the tree. They both stood, arms around each other, in utter and absolute amazement. The box elder’s trunk had broken in two about 20 feet up. The end of the jagged trunk, easily over a foot in diameter, lay just in front of the hutch. It had missed the ever so fortunate rabbits by inches.

The grandparents turned to look at the pigeons. The tree’s branches completely covered the roof and sides of the gazebo, but the gazebo itself was intact, and the beautiful white birds inside were going about their early morning, homing pigeon business, cooing contentedly in the morning sunshine. In thankful disbelief, the grandparents returned to the cabin and their still sleeping grandchildren. It was time for coffee. 

The old tree might not have withstood the rain and the wind, but it had certainly withstood the once-upon-a-time city folks’ undying appreciation. 

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at

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