A Dead Tree with Deep Roots
This morning I went by to check on one of my favorite trees in the whole world. As my youngest son Terry and I left our deer stand deep in Crooked Bayou Swamp, we made a detour through the woods. As we walked under the towering oaks and hickories, a late fall was at its colorful height on the day after Thanksgiving.
In a few minutes we came up on it: A huge beech tree standing by itself. All around it lay dead limbs that had fallen from its heights. All that now stands is the huge trunk and a few large limbs. This was my first trip by it this hunting season, and I was shocked at how much it had deteriorated since last year. As I looked at it I wondered if this was the last year it would withstand the blowing winds of winter.
Even with its rotting condition I could still point out to Terry what made this beech so special. There about six feet high was carved:
“F.I” was my great grandfather, Frank Iles, and “L.I” was my grandfather, Lloyd Iles. On a hunting trip of their own over seventy-six years ago, they had stopped and carved in this tree. On that day my great-grandfather was thirty-six and his son was ten. I would estimate that this old beech tree is now well over one hundred years old.
On this day in 1997 my son and I are close to the respective ages of my beloved ancestors. As we stand looking at this tree, the sense of my deep roots once again overwhelms me. How special it is to stand on land that has been in my family for over one hundred years.
But another emotion also overwhelms me. The feeling of how quickly life passes by. Each time I stand at this tree and see how it is slowly, but steadily dying, I am reminded of the surety of life passing rapidly by right before our eyes. When I bring one of the boys to this special place in the woods, they invariably ask, “Now, who was Frank Iles? And who was Lloyd Iles?” They don’t know them as “Pa” and “PaPa,” the beloved guides of my first eleven years of life.
Then I realize that one day someone will stand in these same woods by a tree where I’ve carved my initials. And one of my descendants will try to explain who “C.I.” was…
Yes, time passes by so quickly… and the limbs of life fall to the ground as surely as the wind blows cold in November. What precious gifts we have been given: the gift of life, the wonderful gift of family—both past and present, and the gift of an old beech tree deep in Crooked Bayou swamp.