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Today is February 25, 2021

Outdoors

Ode to a proud hickory tree

By Tony Kinton

Ode to a proud hickory tree

The once-proud hickory that hosted two hunters for 20 years is now a ghostly figure, but a new one is growing nearby.

Hunting comrade Neal Brown found the old hickory long before I, several years in fact. The tree stood proudly just at the edge of an east-west ridge overlooking a tangled hollow through which a deer trail wended its serpentine route annually. It, this trail, was generally considered a sure thing. Neal introduced it to me.

He had also found a similar-sized oak that held an identical station on a north-south ridge a few hundred yards to the west of that hickory. Same situation: a sure thing. Cradle quietly in the embrace of either tree’s behemoth roots long enough and sit still; deer will trickle along respective ridges or hollows.

We came to identify these two efficacious locales by truly clever and creative titles: the Big Oak and the Big Hickory! They became our most-visited sites when deer hunting, and who got which when depended upon who spoke first. A coin toss would settle the matter if we claimed the same simultaneously. We are friends and fellow hunters after all. Both trees had been kind to each of us, so there was no cause for squabble.

Beside that big oak six years back, I took my last buck while using my beloved wooden bow. Shoulders and neck, strategic players in the game of old age, preclude me from doing so again. I have since been unable to convince myself to gravitate toward wheels and cables, so that chapter is closed.

And three years ago, Neal took a particularly fine specimen from that same spot while using his big Sharps rifle and black-powder cartridges. If a ledger had been kept and consulted, results would show similar success and balanced accounts for both hunters and both trees during two decades.

This past season I elected that proud hickory. Neal told me of its fate, for he had already visited its position on the bluff. I went anyway. The situation was dire. Lightning we assumed. I felt a pang of grief. Even considered clearing some debris from the tree’s base and employing it one last time, but outsized limbs far overhead had begun cracking and falling. Too risky. I moved over to the side of that bastion of hope and grand memories. A sentinel that had seen far more nature and cold and hot and howling wind and rainstorms than I had or ever would. Now a mere skeleton, waiting for one final crash that would leave it in decay.

But it had not been wasted. It had provided in grand form for the wild things and for two hunters who would miss its grandeur. And 30 yards away stood another, smaller and younger and growing into its own destiny as a colossal guardian and resting place for any visitor. It likely was the offspring of that once-proud hickory. I nodded respect for both, regret for the old and celebration for the new. I hope to visit next December.

 

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit www.tonykinton.com for more information.

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