How Do You Say Good-bye to a Tree?

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Photos by the author and from Hilltop archives

The great old oak that stood near the Hilltop Farm barn is shown in several seasons and periods. The 60-year-old photo with the cows, below left, is especially interesting, as it shows a third silo no longer there.

For years, this mighty oak, most likely over 200 years old, has been the backdrop for the historic white barn built by George Hendee in 1914 at Hilltop Farm on Mapleton Ave. Oh, if this tree could talk! Would it tell us about the shade it provided for many farm workers, visitors and most recently participants at the Monster Tag Sale in May and the Vintage Car and Antique Motorcycle Day in July? Would it share stories of children climbing its branches and perhaps swinging? The words of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “The Swing”, float through my mind as I envision this sight.

“How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!”

Would it tell of couples having a picnic lunch on a patchwork blanket spread upon the grass? Would it recall watching hundreds of cows walking into the barn at milking time? Perhaps it would tell us about the Farm Administrator, the Poulterer, or Herdsman as they walk to their dwellings after a long day of work. Would it share stories of the chickens, the turkeys, and sheep that once roamed the land? Perhaps it would tell us how people found comfort sitting at the picnic table shaded by its mighty branches. Or recall how a young couple or two exchanged wedding vows under its canopy. Would it tell us how the present-day resident eagles rest on its branches before heading back to the nest or of young campers observing a little nest this summer? Would it recall the annual Farm Fest and Harvest dinner, favorite fall events, until COVID appeared?

Would it reminisce about the beautiful sunrises over the Connecticut River and the beautiful sunsets over the fields on Hickory Street? Maybe the oak would tell us about the storm on June 29 that whipped around its aging branches and split its fragile trunk? Would it add that the tree specialists determined that it was too dangerous to leave standing, and they would soon saw it to the ground? But before that could happen, Mother Nature provided another storm and took the tree down with wind, sparing it the saw blade on August 12. Would the tree tell us about the Friends of the Farm at Hilltop that have since stood by this tree with bowed heads as we mourn this loss? We all knew that the tree wouldn’t be there forever, but we secretly hoped it would last through our lifetimes. We will say good-bye to this tree, and plans are forming to save parts to be used in different projects for the farm. And perhaps parts will be laid to rest in the forest to generate new life as in Alvin Tresselt’s book, The Gift of the Tree. This tree has been a gift to Hilltop and hopefully someday a new mighty oak may proudly call Hilltop home. Good-bye tree, we will miss you.

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