COWBOY LOGIC: Saving the trees
TOWNER, N.D. -- I suppose it's the summer heat and the search for shade, but I've been thinking a lot about trees lately. Even though I'm a child of the generally treeless plains, I'm a tree lover. I reckon you could call me a tree hugger, althou...
TOWNER, N.D. -- I suppose it's the summer heat and the search for shade, but I've been thinking a lot about trees lately.
Even though I'm a child of the generally treeless plains, I'm a tree lover. I reckon you could call me a tree hugger, although being a Scandinavian Midwesterner with well-managed emotions makes me an unlikely hugger of anything. As with people, I'd be more likely to give a tree a firm handshake or a hearty pat on the back, but not a hug.
Some folks refer to all environmental activists as tree huggers, but there're a lot of us out here who've never chained ourselves to a grand old tree to stop bulldozers in the expansion of urban development but still have strong emotions for trees.
I chose to build our house next to about 10 acres of ponderosa pine that my father planted in 1979. We were as amazed as anyone that they'd actually grow in the glacial, yellow beach sand where we put them, but they provide some nice shade and shelter from the wind. And they smell nice, too.
When I'm spraying for leafy spurge, I do my best to spare the trees in our pastures from the effects of the spray. My hate for nonnative invading weeds to compromise with my desire to keep the aspen thickets and juneberry bushes alive.
It still makes me sad to see the elm trees, which I used to play in when I was a kid, laying dead from the spread of Dutch elm disease. It makes me smile when I see a new ponderosa taking root, thanks only to a dropped pine cone and some favorable weather.
These days, a growing number of people are talking about the effect on the world of destroying the rain forests in places like Brazil and Indonesia.
Ranchers know life is best when things are "how they're supposed to be." Native grass, growing forage, large grazing animals moving from place to place. We're basically doing what's been done throughout time, while providing some protein for the world's beef eaters.
Although I've never been there, I don't know if a cleared and burned rain forest fits that definition of "how things are supposed to be."
Of course, many of the people in those countries are poor, just glad to have some economic activity, a job and a way to provide for their families.
N.D. tree hugger
It reminds me of something my mother did 20 years ago in our neighborhood.
Driving our road to town one day, she noticed a fellow she knew nicknamed Slugger who was cutting down some tall, massive cottonwood trees that had grown in the ditch. He had several of them down already.
She stopped to visit Slug about his new vocation of tree felling. Turned out the county commissioner had asked him to cut them down because he thought they'd catch snow in the winter and block the road.
Mom knew that a few single, solitary cottonwoods weren't causing winter road blocks. Shallow ditches full of scrub willows farther up where the road was lowest would be drifted over in winter, but not by these few stately cottonwoods.
"What's he paying you to cut these down?" she asked. Slug told her he got $20. Mom reached in her pocket, took out a $20 bill and said, "Here, why don't you quit cutting." With that, Slug packed up his chainsaw and headed home.
The big cottonwoods still are there today, shading cattle in the pasture next to them and reminding me of my mom, our local tree-hugging ranchwife, each time I drive by.
I suppose her motivational method could change the way things are going in the rain forests of Brazil and Indonesia, but I don't know if anyone has enough $20 bills.