The Author

The Pecan Tree

I grew up around pecan trees, even earning a little money as a teenager by “thrashing pecans.” While there are more sophisticated methods than we used, there is something exhilarating about shinnying as far as possible up a tree and swaying the branches back and forth as hard as possible to force the tree to drop its fruit. Because of its deep tap root, the pecan is far more forgiving of such an insult than a tree that sends roots wide rather than deep. The old wives’ tale was that the tap root of a pecan was as deep as the tree was tall. Although that’s not true, a root usually ten feet deep into the ground will withstand the swaying of a skinny teenager.

I thought of that recently when we experienced some problems with the pecan that has shaded our church playground for as long as most of us can remember. The tree sits in the middle of the play area, giving cool relief to adult and child alike. Almost a year ago, lightning struck the tree about two-thirds the way up the trunk, leaving a wide gash in its wake. Some of the upper limbs fell, and those that didn’t began to drop leaves.

The old tree managed to survive the brutal heat of last summer but it really began to show its age this spring. When other trees began to leaf out, the pecan was hesitant. Even when other pecans began to show buds, the damaged one held back. We decided that the tree had died, that its service had ended. We called an arborist to cut it down.

I wasn’t paying much attention to them when they came to work on the pecan and an old hackberry that bordered one of our parking lots. I did notice that the workers quickly dispatched the hackberry, but seemed to be taking longer with the pecan. When I walked out to check on the progress, I saw one of the workers swaying in the top of the tree, performing surgery on upper limbs, cutting away dead wood, declaring to everyone that, with just a little help, that old tree would live.

And it does. A little beat up, scarred, deformed by the loss of some limbs, but alive. The leaves have come out and, given time, new branches will form. Before too long, the shade will return for another generation. It wouldn’t even surprise me if, one day, some skinny teenager climbs up there to harvest a little fruit. I guess that’s what happens when the root runs deep. With deep roots, you can withstand all kinds of storms to live and bear fruit another day.

Let those who have ears, hear.