By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The poetry of trees
Random Thoughts, October 20
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - This is the time of year when we tend to pay special attention to trees and their leaves as the seasons change. Many years ago my dad wrote a poem about a tree. The subject was a big cottonwood that overlooked a road on his mail route. He photographed the tree during three seasons and penned the following words.

“Last summer as I passed you by, upon a day serene – I heard you whisper with a sigh – That you were tired of green.

When I passed you in the fall – you turned your eyes in shame – But though you wore no frock at all – I’m sure you weren’t to blame.

Today, when once again we met, a snow-white gown you wore. You proudly looked my way – and yet, I like your green dress more!”

In this area cottonwood trees may not have the large fan base they have in the prairie states. It’s the “State Tree” of Nebraska, Wyoming and Kansas.

Wisconsin and Muscoda have cottonwood trees but we have so many tree species, many of them with beautiful leaves or flowers, that it takes more than size to command attention.

However, I can think of a couple of cottonwood trees that could claim local fame. One that stood tall was an aged tree that grew near the Riverside Park boat landing. I would look at that monster and fantasize about what that tree might have witnessed, including a big fleet of British boats and Indian canoes that passed by as they went to battle French American troops at a fort at Prairie du Chien. That tree may have offered shade to folks and animals arriving at a riverbank trading post or working at the lead smelter located a short distance upstream. A local lady, the late Liz Schoenbeck, was well up in years when she told me she remembered the joy of a swing in that tree brought her

Another tree, that was locally famous much later, was known as the “Big Tree” It stood tall next to a high bank sand trail west of the village and reportedly served as the location for unofficial, perhaps nefarious gatherings.

In the ag. area where I grew up trees were usually planted by humans, not nature. During the Dust Bowl days many trees were planted to protect the soil from the dry winds. Tree planting was also part of government efforts to provide employment during tough financial times.

Those “shelter belts” were often located adjacent to major highways, which in later years became problems because they caused snowdrifts to form. As a high school age kid those tree lines were favorite spots to find pheasants in winter.

Other trees in that area were found along streams and naturally wet locations. Most farmsteads had planted trees, often to break the north winds, and provide the family with a few apples or cherries. Also the one-room schools were surrounded by trees that were important for shade and swing sites.

However, by the time we left Nebraska to come to Wisconsin, many of the planted trees were being removed to provide more acres for raising corn and soybeans – perhaps testimony to that old grandma theory – “what goes around comes around!” @font-face {font-family:Arial; panose-1:2 11 6 4 2 2 2 2 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536859905 -1073711037 9 0 511 0;}@font-face {font-family:Times; panose-1:2 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;}@font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;}@font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1107305727 0 0 415 0;}p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝";}.MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-size:10.0pt; mso-ansi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝";}div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;}