Do You Know Where Your Trees Come From?

"Pssst!  Hey buddy.  Today's the day.  Pass it on."  So, the time had finally come.  After five glorious years growing in the gentle climate of the Pacific Northwest, word slowly circulated that it was time to leave the Oregon nursery we'd called home for our entire lives.  But where were we bound?  Lots of rumors were floating around, the majority started by those pain-in-the-bark birches, and you know how they love to gossip and complain.  "Oh, I hope we go someplace where it's cool," and "I pray they don't use us as street trees."  I've never heard such whining.  As for myself, a rugged bur oak, I was pretty sure I could hack it wherever I ended up, just as long as there weren't any dogs.  But to tell you the truth, I was a bit nervous.  Tales of long truck rides to a remote and strange land called the Midwest, realizing you'll be on display at something called a garden center, and the prospect of spending the rest of my days shading playground equipment in front of a fast-food joint could make even tough guys like me think about defoliating.  But that kind of behavior would be the way of a coward.  And even if I could run, I knew in my heartwood there would be no escaping my fate.  Yes, it was my turn to dance with the digging machine.
In an instant it was over.  Roots severed, plucked out of the ground, burlapped, pinned, roped and tied, and left sitting above ground looking silly and feeling very vulnerable.  And thirsty?  I mean, how would you feel after having about 80 percent of your roots lopped off?  But there was no time for self-pity.  Another machine driven by a Yosemite Sam look-alike scooped me up and deposited me on the back of a giant 18-wheeler.  Feeling woozy, I lost consciousness.
I have no idea how long I was out, but when I came around I learned there were about 60 of us strapped to the back of a flat-bed trailer piloted by a truck driver whose sole intent, it seemed, was to scatter our sorry souls all over the highway.  Mercifully, the heavy tarp draped over my compatriots and I prevented us from seeing just how close we were to meeting the big sequoia in the sky.  Everyone was on edge, and most struggled valiantly to maintain their composure, except for the birches.  Those self-absorbed, narcissistic fools!  "It's too hot.  Who pulled off some of my bark?"  Somebody should have taken a chain saw to them while they still were whips.  And just as I was about to threaten them with a bronze birch borer larvae (of course, it would have been a bluff), I felt a sharp pain in my own trunk.  To my horror, I realized the hawthorns had been loaded just to my left.  It really wasn't their fault, but those thorns would test my patience more than once during the long journey.  At least those fetid female ginkgos weren't on board.
Suddenly the big rig ground to a stop.  From a distance came the sound of equipment and jovial voices shouting, "Welcome to Iowa."  At last the tarps were pulled back and we were bathed in the warmth of the midday sun.  After our mushroom-like existence during the three-day trek, we all were feeling a little intoxicated by the fresh air and sunlight.  But after my first glimpse of the garden center, my euphoria turned to nausea.  There were hundreds, no thousands of relatives, neighbors, and friends spread out over a couple of acres in improbably neat rows.  Most were in pots, but a few sad cases were actually on display bare-root!  What kind of hell was this?  My first instinct was suicide.  If I could just cause the formation of enough tyloses in my vascular system to choke off my water supply, I could end this madness in a day or two.  But before I could act on these self-destructive thoughts I was snatched from the trailer and spirited off to the rear of the nursery where I was stood upright and covered (my rootball that is) with ground-up pieces of wood.  Yes, wood from trees!  Later we learned this nightmarish ritual was necessary to keep our roots from drying out, however, I would have preferred an alternative medium.  With most of my basic needs met, my thoughts now turned to the magic fluid…water.  Remember, none of us had been given a proper drink since our departure.  "Excuse me young man.  Yes, you with the hose.  Could you spare a drink for a weary traveler?"  But instead of a thorough dousing, the nursery employee attached a little black tube around my trunk that delivered water to my rootball at a glacial pace.  Eventually enough water was delivered, but I would have gladly given a scaffold branch for one of those all day rains we were accustomed to in Oregon.
Saturday arrived and people were everywhere.  Potentially, each one held my fate in their hands, but their movements around the nursery were all so predictable.  First they would fawn over those cute-as-a-bugs-ear crabapples with their dainty little flowers.  Give me a break!  One healthy gust of wind and those pretty boys are looking for their flower petals in the next county.  Next, the tree shoppers would drool all over the magnolias.  Little did they know the slightest hint of frost makes magnolia flowers look like burnt strips of bacon.  The regal conifers were visited next.  As if being green year-round was something to boast about.  Eventually though, several groups of tree adopters sauntered over to us shade trees.  I'll never forget this one couple, dressed as if they were on their way to a black tie and gown formal affair instead of a tree-buying expedition.  Everyone had a good laugh when Mr. Tuxedo accidentally stepped off the sidewalk and lost one of his loafers in the ankle-deep mud.  Everyone, that is, except the elms, but you know how they are.
Eventually a family came by who actually seemed to know something about trees.  They admired my single, straight-as-an-arrow central leader.  They congratulated me on my evenly spaced branches radiating about my main stem like the spokes of a wheel, and were duly impressed by my blemish-free trunk.  Well, almost blemish free.  Those blasted hawthorns!  Then, without any ceremony, they tagged me.  I was going to my new home.
Now, two-weeks later, I can honestly say my new digs are starting to feel like home.  True, the "soil" in my housing development doesn't compare to the deep clay-loam I grew up with in Oregon, and I could do without these multi-colored plastic eggs hanging from my limbs, but all in all, my new owners have given me every chance to succeed.  I'm far away from power and communication lines, was planted so everyone can admire my trunk flare, given all the water I need, and have come to appreciate the benefits of having shredded pieces of distant relatives spread over my developing roots.  Is this heaven?


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