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Friday, June 2, 2023

Beckwith - The Boy Who Hated Trees - Keeping the Public in Public Domain


Photo by Amir Kalhor on Unsplash
I'm blessed in my area by woods for hiking with my dog. . . state recreation area, county and metro parks, a nearby golf course when it's not wanted by golfers, and even more.  Even with all of those areas every year I plant ten trees as they come with my annual membership to the Arbor Day Foundation.  (My membership card says I've been a member since 2011!)  They also offer the option: Send me no trees - Plant 10 trees in one of America's forests devastated by fires, insects, disease, and deforestation.

At least the option of having trees planted gets past the objection a former late brother-in-law had to trees requiring mowing around them and also coping with any leaves or branches on the ground.  I was shocked to learn he cut down century-old trees.

I'm not sure it's fair to say he hated trees, nor do I think the following story would have changed his mind.  I do hope telling it to younger listeners, might etch the importance of trees in their minds so they support the goal of the Arbor Day Foundation "to plant 500 million trees by 2027 in areas where they’re needed most. With a strong network of global partners, a science-based approach, and more than 50 years of planting trees all over the world, we know what it takes to make it happen."

This story comes from the Jewel Series originally published in the early 20th century by Duffield & Company.  The sisters Ada M. and Eleanor L. Skinner did several in the series, including one for each season.  This is from their editing The Turquoise Story Book; Stories and Legends of Summer and Nature now found on  as well as in a reprinted paperback by Forgotten Books in their Classic Reprint Series.  The reprinted book omits the frontispiece by Maxfield Parish (included in the Gutenberg version), but is otherwise a good reprint.  That can be hard to verify when ordering reprints unseen.  I've regretted the quality of some, but not those by Forgotten Books.  The Skinner sisters, in their acknowledgements say the story was first published by the Educational Company.

Alice L. Beckwith

"Good night, Dick. Remember, now, to wake up with the robins so that you may be ready to help me set out our new trees."

"Good night," answered Dick in a sulky tone, for Dick was cross.

"Trees, trees, trees!" he mumbled to himself, as he began to undress. "I'm so sick of hearing about trees. And now father has bought some old twigs to set out to-morrow, and I want to go fishing.

"I wish I lived in a land where there were no trees. We could get along well enough without them." And with this thought he jumped into bed.

Dick had been asleep perhaps an hour or more when he heard a queer, rustling noise, and then a voice called out: "Here he is—the boy who hates trees!"

There was the strangest procession coming toward him. It was made up of trees of all kinds. The Pine and Elm came first; the Maple and Oak followed: the Maple's leaves were flushed scarlet, she was so excited. The Willow was weeping, and the Poplar was trembling all over.

Next came all the fruit trees, led by the Cherry, while the Walnut, the White Birch, and the Palm were behind.

What did it all mean? Dick was frightened for a moment. It seemed as if every tree of which he had ever heard was there, and he wondered how the room could hold them all.

When they had all grown quiet, the Pine said: "Dear brothers and sisters, here is a boy who hates trees; he cannot see that we are of any use. It is more than I can stand, and I have called this meeting to see what can be done about it. Has anyone anything to say?"

The Cherry looked very sour. "I cannot see that boys are of any use," she said. "Many years ago, when cherry trees were scarce in this country, a boy named George cut down my great-grandfather just to try his new hatchet."

"And boys know so little," said the White Birch; "they are always hacking me with knives, and taking off my coat, no matter how cold the weather is. I loved a boy once, but it was many years ago. He was a little Indian boy. He loved trees. I remember how he stood beside me one day and said:
"'Give me of your bark, O Birch Tree!
For the summer time is coming,
And the sun is warm in heaven,
And you need no white skin wrapper.'

"Then he took off my bark so carefully that he did not hurt me a bit. But he is not living now. This boy is not like him."

"I don't like boys, either," spoke up the Apple. "One day a boy climbed up into my branches and broke off one of my limbs. He was a very silly boy, for he wanted green apples. Had my fruit been ripe, I would have tossed one down to him. How happy we should be if it were not for boys!"

The Maple was very angry. "This boy said we were of no use, but it was only this morning that I heard him tease his grandfather for a cake of my sugar."

"He ate it as if he liked it, too," said the Palm. "I saw him; he was fanning himself with one of my leaves."

The Willow wiped her eyes. "Boys, boys, boys!" she said. "I'm so sick of boys! This same boy made a whistle out of one of my children this very night, when he went for the cows."

Then a queer tree in the corner spoke in a thick voice: "We are of no use, are we? If it were not for me, where would he get the tires for his bicycle? There are his rubber boots, too. Why, he uses me every day about something. But I've thought of a plan."

The trees crowded around him, talking together excitedly. "But how shall we do it?" Dick heard them say. "Oh," said the Elm, "the Wind will help us. He is our friend."

Before Dick could cry out, he found himself being carried away by the Wind.

"Where am I going?" he called.

"To the land of no trees," they answered; and they bowed and smiled. Even the Willow held up her head long enough to call, "Good-by!" and then home and trees were left far behind.

How fast the Wind traveled! On and on they rushed, until suddenly the Wind dropped him and went whistling away.

Dick felt really frightened when he found himself all alone.

"Oh, I'm so hot!" he exclaimed. "Where am I?"

Certainly he had never before been in such a place.

There were no trees nor green grass anywhere in sight. As far as he could see, there was only sand—white sand, hot and scorching.

"It seems to me I've seen pictures in my geography like this," he said to himself. "I can't stay here. What shall I do?"

All at once he noticed a tiny speck far away in the distance. Now it looked larger. He brushed away something that looked very much like a tear, though he told himself that it was only because he was so warm.

Yes, that speck surely moved, and was coming nearer. What if it were a bear!

"There is no tree to climb, and I cannot run—I am so tired, and it is very hot."

Nearer and nearer it came, moving slowly. Dick watched it with a beating heart. At last he saw that it was not a single animal, but a great many in line.

"Oh, they are camels!" he cried. "Yes, I know they are. Once at a circus I saw some that looked just like them—but what queer-looking men are on them!"

They were now very near him, and one of the men beckoned with his hand and said something.

"I can't understand him," said Dick to himself, "but I suppose he meant he'll give me a ride."

The man helped him up and they journeyed on. After a time Dick grew very tired even of riding.

"The camel joggles me so," he said, "and I am so thirsty I shall die. If they would only stop a minute!"

What was the matter? What were they saying? Each man was bowing himself toward the ground and waving his hands.

"I don't see what they are making all that fuss about. I can't see anything; the sun hurts my eyes so." And Dick covered his eyes with his hand.

Suddenly there was a shout, and the camels stood still. Dick lifted his head. Could he believe his eyes? Right before him was a little spot of green grass, a spring of cool water, and one of those things he hated—a tree.

Hate a tree? He thought that he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life.

He fairly tumbled off the camel in his haste to reach it. The tears ran down his face as he threw his arms around its trunk.

"Dear tree!" he cried.

"Dick, Dick, are you going to help me plant the new trees?" called his father.

Opening his eyes, Dick found himself in his own little room, both hands clasping his pillow.

Dick was soon dressed and downstairs, and so anxious was he to plant trees that he could hardly eat his breakfast.
In just one night he had learned to see
The wonderful beauty there is in a tree.


If that story seems improbable, look to Lebanon.  Wikipedia does an excellent job of summarizing what deforestation can do. 

In ancient times, Lebanon was covered by large forests of cedar trees, the national emblem of the country.[171] Millennia of deforestation have altered the hydrology in Mount Lebanon and changed the regional climate adversely.[172] As of 2012, forests covered 13.4% of the Lebanese land area;[173] they are under constant threat from wildfires caused by the long dry summer season.[174]

As a result of longstanding exploitation, few old cedar trees remain in pockets of forests in Lebanon, but there is an active program to conserve and regenerate the forests.

Flag of Lebanon  The cedar is Lebanon's national emblem and on the national flag.  May it replace the deserts.

*** One last comment: Arbor Day members also can purchase all kinds of trees far less expensively and trees come with a one year guarantee.  Now I really need to get back to my newly planted trees.




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