Shirley Donnelly: Sad Task Of Cutting Down Old Trees

I have typed up the old article because it is somewhat difficult to read the newspaper clipping. However, the clipping is at the very bottom of the blog, if you would like to look at it.

Side note: I love a noble tree. There is one in my backyard. It stands tall, branches full of leaves in the spring. I can mark the seasons by the colors it shows me. My neighbor cut down their tree this year. It displaced a woodpecker who returned to peck at the stump still rooted in the ground. This article caught my eye by Shirley’s use of the term “noble tree”. I hope you enjoy the read as much as I did.


Clipped from Pg 4 / Beckley Post-Herald / Thr, Nov 1, 1956

Yesterday And Today-

Tile Sad Task Of Cutting Down Old Trees / By SHIRLEY DONNELLY

Next to the destruction of human life comes the destruction of a noble tree. At least that is the way it is in my book of thinking. Life runs its course and so does the existence of a tree. Then comes the end.

In the course of my going to and fro and up and down the earth I have marked every pretty tree within eye range like a caddy marks the flight and landing spot of a golf ball in flight. How come me to get going on the subject of trees today is the fact that Raymond Treadway, a neighbor of mine, is doing away with an apple orchard he has on his place. In the orchard there are some four or five acres of trees which have shot their wad, as we say up ‘in Fayette County.

How old this orchard is I don’t exactly know but it must be forty- five years or better. It is the one the late Edgar L. Booth set out. That worthy used to tell me how he and wife — the former Mary Blake of Oak Hill — set the orchard out at night, or a part of it was set out after close of day. He would be out waggoning all day, selling produce of one kind or another in the Fayette County coal camps. Then when he came in from his huxtering the day would be far spent but his fruit trees had come in from the nursery and had to be put in the ground. He told me once that much of his big orchard was set out by lantern light to guide them.

Both Booth and his wife were young folks then and were used to hard work on the farm. When I moved to Upson Downs at Oak Hill back there on Memorial Day, 1933, this orchard was going great guns. Come apple blossom time in Fayette County the Booth orchard was the prettiest sight you ever laid eyes on. It was located on a sloping hillside with an eastern exposure and was a bower of bloom and beauty when it was spring time here in the hill country. Good care was taken of the fruit trees by that good farmer. He was active as cat when it came to skinning around in those trees during pruning time. One day I asked him when was a good time to prune an apple tree and he shot back with “Any time your pruning saw is sharp.” That was a good and scientific answer, too.

When it was time to spray the fruit trees the smell of Bordeaux Mixture was abroad in the land over our way. Plumes of yellow water spray glistened in the morning sun and the rays shining upon it reflected all the prismatic colors of the rainbow. That spray got rid of the San Jose scale when it was applied to the trees just out in bloom. Later on they sprayed the fruit to keep away the worms. This made for good luscious fruit that was as solid as the American gold dollar. When the bloom was out in all its glory there were myriads of honey bees in the orchard sipping the sweet nectar of those blooms to get honey for their hives. There were bees there no end, too.

Come the sunny days of September and the bright blue weather of October, Booth’s orchard was a pretty picture again. It was all redolent with fruit. If there’s anything more appealing to the eye than a tree ladened with rich, ripe fruit, why then, I don’t know what it is. Picking apples was a big job in the Edgar Booth orchard. He called his place Excelsior Fruit Farm. That was too big a word in the name to have popular appeal but his fruit more than made up for it. When I acquired the lower end of his farm in 1930 the basement of the manor house was boarded up with apple bins. For some years after getting the place I picked the apples from the trees on the place I bought. Those apples were carefully placed in those bins and they gave the whole basement and house the winiest fragrance one ever sniffed. There was real bouquet to the smell of that delicious fruit.

Years passed and piled upon Farmer Booth, as I always called him. Then his health clutch began to slip and the big orchard that was his pride and joy went into decline. These trees grew up in water sprouts and cross limbs. Poison oak vines took the trees and lots of the tree tops and broke off in the onslaughts of winter weathers. Then it fell on a day the farmer went the way of all flesh. Last year his widow sold the orchard place to Raymond Treadway who does not have to fool with it. Now he is sawing down and getting rid of the trees. They are old anyhow. They have served their day and generation. They look old. What is more, orcharding doesn’t pay in these parts. By the time the trees yield their increase here the chain stores have trucked in apples from afar and have been doing so a month or two in advance of the ripened fruit in the locality of the stores.

Most of the value received from an orchard in our locality is aesthetic–the joy that delights one’s soul as he sees the trees bloom and their limbs ladened with the rich, ripe fruit. I found that out. Apples are grown and given away in the fall. That led me to mark the distinction a farmer and an agriculturist. That difference is simply this: A farmer makes his money on the farm and spends it in town, whereas the agriculturist makes his money in town and spends it on the farm. I am an agriculturist. This fall many of my apple trees — close to fifty years old they are — are being cut down. Limbs will be burned on the spot to enrich the land but the body of each tree will be sawed into wood to be burned in the big open fire place in the little old log cabin in the lane at Upson Downs if and when I get an evening to sit before that open fire. It is nice to do so and muse as the fire burns. Wood ashes are good for the land. Potash and nitrates help the soil. One day Dike Psigma, he big Special Services chief at Veterans Administration Hospital here at Beckley, and I were discussing fertilizer in general and nitrates in particular. When inquiry was made of Dike as to knowledge of nitrates he said he thought they were cheaper than day rates! And there you have what Dike calls the “paralysis of analysis”–or words to that effect.

The Sad Task of Cutting Down Old Trees ~Shirley Donnelly -

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