Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Postcard from the Pines: Give Mom a Tree

Arbor Day happens each April, although just one day to honor and plant trees doesn’t seem quite right. Perhaps the late date is meant to coincide with the coming of green across the land. We are especially fond of our blooming trees, and not only when they flower. True, we will enjoy every moment of the flowering crabs and apples in our yard, until their leaves turn gold and fall.   
    I come from a long line of tree lovers of one kind or another. Great-grandpa Milt Beebe came to Osceola County as a boy with his father Raymond in 1873. They settled in the well forested Highland Twp, chosen, in part, because of the standing timber and the location of a creek through the section. The Beebe’s cleared their land and established the first upright, water-powered saw mill in this area. The Beebe family, three generations of them, in-laws included, lumbered in Osceola and Clare counties until 1920. 
    Milt appreciated good trees, living and growing as well as logs for lumber. The family milled the lumber used to build, first Rayme and Jane’s house and barn, later Milt and Lillie’s. Milt was very proud of his barn, which was built to last from cedar boards. And last it did, coming down at the end of the last century, more than one hundred years after it was built. 
    On his cleared land Milt and Lillie planted many apple trees, a Balm of Gilliad, a member of the cottonwood family, and weeping willows along Franz Creek, behind the house. They also marked the small family graveyard of lost babies, with a white pine and lilacs. The pine grew to a venerable age and girth before it was struck by lightning. 
    When my grandparents, Frank and Fern Berry, bought their property on Blevins Street in the 1920’s they began planting trees. From the Plains of Clare County they transplanted a young Jack pine. It joined silver poplars, a box elder or two, apple trees, several Norway or red pines, and a larger white pine sapling. Grandma enjoyed all that her white pine offered; shade, a haven for birds, the beauty of its growth and even the cones which fell in great abundance. She kept a picnic table under its spreading limbs for years.   
   The white pine became a magnet for the brave among the tree climbers of Blevins Street. The ultimate challenge was for the brave to climb to the top of the sticky big pine before getting caught. And my grandmother always kept an eye on her tree and the brave got into big trouble.  I ever made it past the first limb. I was not a climber. My friend Sue was retrieved from the uppermost limbs by her dad. It was a large tree when I was a kid and it is a mighty one now. I honestly don’t know how it hasn’t been struck by lightning. 
    Another of Grandma’s favorite trees was a weeping, cut-leaf, white paper birch. The Berry’s planted it in the 1940’s. It was a much coddled tree brought here from Munising, a living souvenir from their teaching years there. Grandma fought attacks from sap-suckers and smaller unseen creatures. She fed it concoctions of food and repellents with a soaker hose contraption and worried that winter’s ice would break limbs. It survived her but not by much. 
  Grandma always hoped to have a grove of trees, or a stand of pines, on her property on Blevins. About 1960 she ordered and planted, with the aid of neighborhood boys, a quantity of young pine trees. These two foot tall trees were planted in four rows at the back of her property, behind the garden and asparagus patch. She later planted several rows of pine to the south. Many evenings would find Grandma walking in her pine plantation, as she called it. In her mind’s eye, these young pines were already forty feet tall. They are now.
  Grandma planted a tree whenever the urge struck her. She added a mountain ash to the front yard because she knew robins and cedar wax-wings liked the orange berries it bore each fall. And she could not bear to have the old, brittle transparent apple tree in the back yard cut down, even though it was mostly hallow and struggled.     
   One of the last trees she planted was a weeping willow, against the advice of almost everyone she knew. No one understood why she would want one of those ‘dirty’ trees in such close proximity to her back door. And no one could talk her out of it. She ordered a large one and kept the hose running at its base its first summer. There had been a weeping willow out in Highland at Milt and Lillie’s back door. 
    When you approach Marion from the west, and if you look quickly enough, you may catch a glimpse of the mighty white pine, above all other trees. The pine plantation, or what is left of it, makes a fine showing as well. She would be pleased and I’m sure they are everything she hoped they would be. Every day was Arbor Day for Grandma. 
Need a gift suggestion for Mother’s Day? Plant a tree for your mom and be sure to wish her a very Happy Mom’s Day.

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