To the Old Oak Tree
"Eighty-eight" yelled my 10-year-old son Henry, as he sprung up from his knees in front of the giant white oak stump he had been inspecting. Eighty-eight rings for eighty-eight years. A historical narrative quickly came to mind beginning sometime around the year 1932.
A little oak tree sprouted from an acorn buried on a piece of high ground along the Warroad River, south of Lake of the Woods. Over the next few generations it grew tall while early white settlers to northern Minnesota established a small farm and built a home nearby, taking care to spare and preserve the growing shady oak tree. For many of its later years, it stood proud as the centerpiece of the country yard that Bob, my children's music teacher, kept up on that ridge along the Warroad River.
Last week, as I swerved my pickup truck around the fallen oak, the tree's history soon turned into images of the future: 4/4 planks of clear white oak drying in my woodshed. Bob easily agreed to this new destiny for his precious yard tree. Being a woodworker himself, he had a deep appreciation for this type of hardwood lumber, which was much too valuable to simply be turned into firewood. So, my friend Kyle and I pulled his Wood Mizer alongside the 9-ft length of stump. Henry watched in amazement as the old oak was transformed into toboggan boards, table planks, mantle pieces, and whatever else may become of those hard-earned eighty-eight rings.