The Burr Oak Trees of Glenwood Parkway

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story

I began life as an acorn seed dropped into the soil and trampled on by squirrels, their ancestors now climb my branches, build nests and teach their young how to forge my fruits. They must be aware of the white-headed owls who have feasted on the squirrel babies.
I have stood alone and witnessed the evolution of this prairie. As a sapling, I watched the men stealth through the forest and with accurate arrows pierce the heart of the bucks with antlers like tree branches on top of their heads. I give shelter to many. My acorns feed the squirrels, the white-tail deer, porcupines and the black bear and the men who hunted the bison herds. Birds come and peck at my bark to eat the insects. My taproot is deep in the earth in search of water. The nearby creek waters feed me making me strong like a fortress needing two tall men with long arms to encircle the girth of my trunk. At times, the creek banks overflowed and other times I was left thirsting for water with the heat of the sun baking my branches and leaves wilting.
My leaves come and go from my branches. When the air becomes crisp they fall away and cover the earth beneath me. The snow covers my naked branches while the squirrels and owls seek comfort in the hollows of my trunk. And when the heat rises higher in the sky again, my sap runs through my veins. Leaf buds open to give my branches cover once more and shade to the prairie.
I have stood in this place and have seen many leaves drop and come to be born on my branches. I am old. How do I know this? Those of you who study us, know our rings tell our stories when we are cut down. I lost my mother and father, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, if it wasn’t the fires destroying us, it was the men cutting us taking our bodies to build their houses I’ve seen on the edge of the prairie. The road that has cut through the prairie brought men who turned up the earth and killed the bison so that only the hardiest of us survived the holocaust.
As my trunk grew wide and my branches tall, I could see the city buildings. More people came with their machines on wheels that moves without the four-legged breast. These machines leave a foul smell in the air as they snake through the short green grasses, not like the tall prairie grasses that covered the ground. The pale skin men walk the ground with sticks hitting a white bird that flies through the air and is eventually put in a hole in the ground. Only to be retrieved and hit again and again flying through the air. For this my family and home was destroyed.

It was a black night with sheets of water falling from the sky. The machine on wheels lights were coming towards me, coming too fast around the curve where I stand now on the side of the road. BAM! It hit my trunk with such force I bear the scars to this day. But I did not fall, my roots run deep into the earth. I did not yield to the machine on wheels not made of the wood of my ancestors. Instead it crumbled upon impact from the strength of my trunk. I could smell something foul left by machine on wheels as it tried to stop before it left the trail. The machine was burning and smoking and from within I heard a faint moan.
Soon the rhythmic wail of more machines on wheels came for the moaning. The men in the wailing machines tried to pull the moaner out of the wreckage but it was tightly wrapped around his body. My trunk did a good job of saving me.
One of the men called out to the man in the wrecked machine, “Can you hear me, what’s your name?”
“I smell booze,” he said to another man near him. “Bring me those so I can cut some of this metal away from him. I think I can pull him out.”
“I think he’s coming ‘round. Mister, can you tell me, what’s your name?”
“Norm, my name is Norm I work at the Ford plant. Please call my wife Edie.
He talked no more and they took his broken body away in the wailing machine.
But I didn’t yield and my trunk bears the scars.