I had the best of intentions, planting that tree, 24 years ago. I’m a sentimental sort, sometimes perhaps overly so, and I was looking for ways to symbolically remember my young daughter Bethany, who had fallen victim to a drunk driver in January 1994.
So, I stopped at the site of the wreck later that summer, in a curve near the community of Middendorf, South Carolina, in the middle of the Sand Hills State Forest. I scooped up a young seedling of a long-leaf pine, brought it home, and planted it about 15 feet from the front porch.
That was too close, but the front yard is so small and so close to the road that it was about the only space left. I was thinking with my heart and not my head — apparently not considering how large that tree would grow in 24 years.
It grew plenty large, shading out other plants, filling the gutters with pine needles, and making me worried about the potential damage if a big enough storm came through: I was living there when the eye of Hurricane Fran passed over in 1996, and saw what could happen to solitary pine trees. I’d seen this one sway in the wind and bow beneath an ice storm, too.
I could have left it and taken my chances, but I decided to spend the money and have the tree taken down, along with an overgrown magnolia tree I’d also planted for sentimental reasons (it was a sprig from my parents’ house) — but had forgotten what a royal pain magnolia leaves can be.
I remain nostalgic enough to have kept three pine cones: perhaps one day I’ll have a large enough lot to try sprouting another seedling. In the meantime, I’m grateful to the guys at Amigo Tree Service, who did a terrific job in removing the trees and grinding the stumps without damaging anything else.
Just another one of those reminders of the value of thinking ahead.