BY DAN MILLER
(originally posted June 20, 2005)
You'll notice it has an odd split, or fork, right in the middle of the trunk.
I recall exactly how that happened.
The house you see on the left is where my paternal grandparents lived down in Georgia -- starting in the mid 1940s, for the remainder of their lives.
More than a half century ago, I was standing right there with my grandfather -- Big Daddy, as we called him -- as he planted that pine tree. He enjoyed (I think) having me help him.
I don't recall the height of the tree when he planted it.... but it couldn't have been more than about 5 feet high. I know that because, at 8 or 9 years old, I could easily reach the top.
That should give you a hint as to how the strange split in the tree happened.
As Big Daddy finished putting the tree in the ground, and gathered his shovel and other garden tools, I reached up and snapped the top off the freshly planted tree -- an accident, of course.
My grandfather seemed a bit dismayed, but instead of making a big fuss, he simply said something like, "Well, from now on, that tree will have a funny-looking top, and every time you see it, you'll remember what you did."
I suspect he knew -- even hoped -- I'd go there and look at that old pine years later, and think about that day, and about him. And quite often, I do.
Last week, on a trip home to Augusta, (and I hope I didn't frighten whoever lives there now) I stood in the middle of Bransford Avenue and snapped this picture. As I stood there, I thought about that day -- and about my grandfather, who died less than a year after planting that tree.
To me, that old pine is a living monument to a good man I barely got to know..... and absolute proof that beauty and meaning can emerge from the most unlikely circumstances.