“A Tree Fell on the Old House.”

“The Old House at Night.”  by Bill Iles 1963

“A Tree Fell on the Old House.”


“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

   Proverbs 23:7

I’ve always dreaded it, but knew it’d happen one day.  My sister’s message was short, “A tree fell on the Old House last night during the storm.”

Before I tell you about the tree and the damage, I must explain about the Old House and its link to my family.

My great-great-grandparents, John and Sarah Wagon, built the original log portion about 1890.

As typical of house styles of that period, the Old House is a dog-trot style house with porches on every side and three chimneys.

Four generations of my clan have lived there, each building additional rooms.

As a child, we lived there while my father built the house I grew up in next door.

The Old House was a solid part of my upbringing.  It was filled with great-grandparents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins. dogs, music, coffee, stories, and lots of love.

It’s been empty since 1970, but its unique place in my life hasn’t diminished.

I’ve written parts of thirteen books on its porch or in front of a roaring fire. Many nights I’ve sat in total silence and darkness awaiting the lonely call of an owl.

It’s a  big part of who I am.

There are four ancient majestic trees surrounding the Old House. I’d always feared one would fall and destroy the house.

One is a gnarled leaning live oak complete with a rope swing used by three generations of Iles kids.

There are two majestic red cedars in the front yard. My great-grandmother remembered the cedars as saplings from her childhood.  Most of old homesteads in the Pineywoods have a red cedar in the yard.

The fourth tree by the Old House is a tall, mature pecan. It butts up against the back porch on the south side.

It’s the tree that’s always worried me. Pecan trees tend to drop large limbs and crash down.

Over the years, I’ve talked to that pecan tree requesting it to fall south instead of north.  Don’t laugh about talking to trees.  Like dogs, they listen well and never argue.

But this old pecan tree didn’t honor my request. It came crashing down northward on the roof during last week’s storm.

It could have been much worse. One of the cedars caught its top and lessened the damage.

Sections of the tin roof buckled and rafters and supports broke under the trunk’s weight.  A tree service removed the tree and tarped the roof. When lifted by a crane, the main section of the trunk weighed five thousand pounds.

What really caught my attention was the stump. It was hollow.


All these years, this stately pecan tree had been hollow inside.

Heart rot is what brought it down.

When it fell, its inner weakness was revealed.

During 2006 and the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I learned this:

Storms don’t build character. They reveal it.

Hurricane survivors came from every walk of life. Most showed a core of character:  strangers helping strangers, folks opening their homes and hearts.

Sadly, others took advantage of suffering folks, only looking out for themselves.

Good people became better, while others revealed their bad side.

The storms revealed character. They showed what was inside.

We all experience storms. You’re either in a storm, coming out of one, or headed to one.

Storms show what we’re made of.

They reveal.

Have you had a heart check lately?

Even in my season of life, I want to grow in heartiness.   For me, my heart needs a daily personal relationship with God. It changes and stretches my soul.

I recommend Him with all of my heart.

That’s a good lesson from the heart of an ancient pecan tree.


As a young man, I wrote a poem that still shares about how I feel about that Old House: 


The Old House at the End of the Road

If it’s possible to love a house like a person

Then the Lord knows I love this old house.

It’s a place that reminds me of family

And the things in life that mean the most.

It’s the place I come back to when I’m lonely 

Or it seems I’ve lost my way.

Somewhere where I always feel welcome,

And can sit down and think for a while.

This old house is more than boards and nails,

Because it tells me of our past.

As I walk through it, I’m reminded 

The special people in our lives never last.

But though they’re gone, I will remember

And they’ll live inside of me.

This old house reminds me of who I am

And everything I want to be.




Curt Iles



Facebook: Curt Iles

Twitter: @curtiles


5000 Pounds of Pecan in the air.


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