My life’s enjoyment of trees |

My life’s enjoyment of trees

Ellen Campbell
Central City, Neb.

The catalpas are coming into bloom again. I’ve always loved them, perhaps more than any other kind of tree. We had them in the grove beside the house on the farm where I grew up. Their blossoms are especially beautiful, and we used the large plate-sized leaves in many ways as we played our summers away in the grove.

Actually, we had more mulberry trees than anything else. They were planted in rows both lengthwise and crosswise, making nice square rooms for Margaret and me to sweep clean with an old corn broom for a playhouse. We used wooden orange crates for furniture and brought our doll buggy and dolls in there. When the mulberries were ripe, Mama took all of us kids out there to help gather them. She laid an old sheet on the ground to catch the berries as she shook the tree, and we picked them up and put them in our Karo Syrup buckets. Later we had some for supper dessert with cream, and she always canned quarts of them with rhubarb.

We had tall cottonwood trees at the west end of the grove, and Daddy hung a tire swing from one of the branches. That’s where I used to go by myself to read Tarzan books and pretend I was swinging through the trees like him and his ape friends.

Another special place on that farm was Grandpa’s orchard. We had wonderful apples, cherries and apricots in season, but I also liked to go there just to climb the apple trees. One of them had a broad horizontal branch where I would sit and do my imaginings.

When I was a 4-Her, I was into tree identification. I remember making a scrapbook for the fair with pressed leaves and blossoms of all the different species I could find. I attended a special 4-H camp for older kids at Chadron State Park, and we had educational activities each day along with square-dancing at night. I volunteered for the camp newspaper which published a little daily mimeographed paper telling of the activities. Just the other day when I was sorting through some boxes, I found the article I wrote about a nature hike where the old gentleman who led us identified the plant life of the park and told us about each kind. I really drank in that kind of information. My interest continued in college where one of the elective courses I chose was landscaping with a special emphasis on Nebraska trees.

And all my life I’ve taken pleasure in the trees anywhere we have gone on trips. I always want to know what kind they are. One reason I enjoy botanical gardens is that everything is labeled. One of my great sorrows was losing the large ash tree on the south side of our yard after enjoying its shade for 40 years of our marriage. Many birds nested in it each spring, and hundreds more sang from its branches. I think of the time we were privileged to see a flock of cedar waxwings land silently in that tree to rest for a while. Then they took off, just as quietly as they had come. We still have the stump there, and our cats like to use it to bask in the sun.

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It seems appropriate that one of my all time favorite poems is “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer, which I memorized in about the 4th grade. The words were set to music in a song we sang in high school chorus. That poem is not very sophisticated, maybe even sappy, but I still like it. Knowing that Nebraska was once a treeless plain, I appreciate all the folks since Pioneer days who have planted and are continuing to plant them for our enjoyment and the good of the environment.