A sentimental story about a Colorado spruce in my front yard
A thirty-foot Colorado spruce sits in our front yard. I’m not all that good at estimating, but I’d say she’s at least that tall. We’ve always referred to her as Miss Bennett. That’s because Mrs. Bennett, a teacher at McComas Elementary School on Raccoon Creek in West Virginia, gave her to me at the end of my first year of teaching. She was no more than a foot tall when I set her out. My two boys, Anthony and Nathan, used to make running jumps over Miss Bennett, especially in the summertime when they were outside a lot. Since she was a slow grower, and the boys shot up fast, they were able to leap over her highest point for several years. Time marched on, however, until the summer came when they could no longer clear her top branches. Miss Bennett had finally outdone them. She continued to grow taller and broaden— her lower limbs eventually swooping to the ground. Every summer I zigzagged around these limbs with my mower, hating it each time I took the trouble to do it. One day I said to myself, I don’t want to do this anymore. These limbs are too much trouble, so I‘m cuttin’ ’em off. With that, I sawed them to the ground without asking anyone's permission. Now, that was a big mistake on my part. Janet, my wife, didn’t like it one bit. And, since she was never one to stifle anything she wanted to say, she snapped, “Well, I guess you know you’ve ruined her. I’d just as soon you cut the thing down. I never did like her that much anyway. Besides, she looks all crooked, now.” I thought, No, I didn’t know I’d ruined her. And just because you said it, doesn’t make it so. Sometimes the tongue can cut pretty deep, so I was ready to take a double-bitted ax to Miss Bennet’s thick trunk. But something inside just wouldn’t let me hack her down. The memories she held were too overpowering— my first year’s teaching experience with Mrs. Bennett herself, now deceased, and the remembrances I had of Anthony and Nathan hurdling a tree that doesn’t mean squat to another soul except me. Today, my grandsons, Andrew and Tanner, occasionally climb her prickly limbs, getting sticky resin from her oozing pores on their hands and clothing. From time to time many of her needles turn yellow, particularly during long dry spells, and I'll think she’s going to die. But the rains come, and she thrives once more. Her present lower limbs are becoming heavily laden just as before and swooping closer to the ground as each year passes. Gnarled roots have surfaced around her massive trunk, making it more difficult than ever to mow, and she produces a fresh load of pollen each spring. Yes, Miss Bennett is a lot of trouble, but as of right now, she stays. Why not? She’s stood firmly in the same spot for decades, now, so she’s earned the right to claim that portion of the yard for herself. Besides, winter’s coming on, and she’s mighty pretty all dressed up in her blanket of wet snow, cascading her boughs downward for onlookers to take pleasure in each time she does it.