Pine Sap: Thoughts on a Dead Pine

Curt Leaning Against Fireplace at Old House
Curt at The Old House in Dry Creek, LA

A word from Curt


It’s a good word for my life.

I was born curious.

It’s gotten me in some tight spots.  (Wildlife Agent at Sabine National Park to Robert Sanders and me,  “Now, which of the three “No Trespassing” signs did you fellows not see when you crawled under the gate.)

Curiosity has also led to hundreds of new friendships and dozens of good stories.

As we slide back into Africa, I’m writing about trees.

Yesterday was an older story on “The Landmark Tree.”

Today’s post sadly tells of my visit to this tree last week.

Thursday’s post will move us back into Africa.  I’ll share stories and photos of my favorite African trees.


Our 2015 blogging schedule will be along these lines:

  • Tuesdays:  a new post from our African journey
  • Thursdays:  reader favorites including an audio podcast of story.
  • Saturday:  Every Picture Tells a Story.  We’ll share shots and snippets of the last week.
  • Sunday: a brief overview and current prayer request to share with your church family.

We’ll time these stories to go out at 5:00 am CST on their respective days.

Today’s story comes fresh from my heart.  Enjoy!


Landmark Longleaf Pine on Longville Gravel Pit Road
Landmark Longleaf Pine on Longville Gravel Pit Road. 




Tears for the Landmark Tree


No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.


Since returning to Africa, I’ve been emotional.

That’s not a bad thing. When we live the passionate enthusiastic life, emotion is part of the equation.



During our first week back in Louisiana, we drove along the Longville Rd.   I looked forward to seeing the Landmark Tree mentioned in yesterday’s blog. 

I knew the young pines planted around it would have grown taller, crowding out it’s lonesome but majestic overlook.

But I didn’t expect to see what I did.

It was dead. 

I was riding with Mom and DeDe. It stunned me so that I didn’t even mention it.


I made up my mind to return for one last visit before returning to Africa. 

I could’ve waited until late October when we return home for good but knew it would look much different. By then the storms of spring and fickle hurricane weather may have brought it to the ground.


I guess I wanted to say goodbye.

I also wanted to do an autopsy. What killed the giant longleaf? Would a closer visit show a lightning strike or beetle infestation?

Two days before we flew out, I made a final visit to see my Mom in Dry Creek. In the midst of a driving cold rain, I detoured  to the Landmark Pine.


There was no tell tale jagged lightning scar on the tree.

I have no idea what killed it.


This was a tree I fully expected my great grandchildren to see.

I expected it to likely outlive me.

But it was dead.

The rain felt even colder. I’d lost a friend.

A touchstone to my piney woods roots.

A tree that I’d helped make famous with a post hurricane Rita- photo at sunset and its inclusion as the cover of Deep Roots.

Deep Roots contains short stories that inspire, encourage, and inform.
Deep Roots contains short stories that inspire, encourage, and inform.

Its death (to me) was sudden and unexpected.



Standing in the rain, I thought about the recent death of my precious brother-in-law, Malcolm.

Sudden and unexpected.

Your world can change with one phone call. It doesn’t matter what your area code is.

Ours came as DeDe sat in a hotel room in Juba, South Sudan.

“Your brother Malcolm died in his sleep.”

Sudden and unexpected. 


I look at the tree. It’s fitting that it’s a gloomy slate gray day.

I thought of others who’ve left this earth during my two years of self-exile to Africa.


Audry Tyler told me in December 2012, “Well, I’ll never see you again on this earth.”   She was right.

Sherwood Goins shook my hand. “Son, I’ll be gone when you get back.”  He was also correct.


Standing at the base of the dead tree, I think of these and many more.


You can’t stand by the same river twice.

I guess that includes trees too. They change.

They grow.

They shed leaves.

Produce fruit, cones, and shade.

Eventually they all die.




Suddenly, I focus on several young pines in the ditch by Landmark Tree. They’re Longleaf. There’s no doubt they’re from the cones of this dead tree. Most are in the grassy stage that defines the early years of this species.


“Burned yet Blessed” is a story that ties in the Longleaf Pine life cycle with several spiritual insights.   View it here.



I smile. The Landmark Tree left a legacy. Some won’t survive the Police jury bushog or grader, but a few will.

I’ve got a reason to come back to this spot.

Come October and hopefully many Octobers to follow.


The young pines remind me of the new gifts in our lives.

I held a new grandchild for the first time this month.

I’d met Ellen Iles on Skype and Facetime but that doesn’t touch holding her in my arms.


We spent every spare moment with our eight grandchildren: Ellen, Maggie, Emma, Luke, Sydney, Jude, Jack, and Noah.


Our motto was, “We’ll rest on the plane going home.”

Longleaf seedling on our Wagnon Estate land.
Longleaf seedling on our Wagnon Estate land.

It was neat to see how these seedlings and sapling trees had grown.

It reminded me of one of my ten words to live by.


It’s what we’re remembered for after we’re gone.


Those little trees that will grow and hopefully thrive long after our limbs have fallen and our bark is compost.

I want to sink my life into nurturing those little trees. I want that influence and impact that leads to a good legacy.



Back at the Landmark Tree, the rain increases. I trot back to the car. It’s time to move.

Time to move on.


As I drive off, I wave one last time at the Landmark Tree on the Gravel Pit Road.   I give it a good salute for a long well-lived life.


I glance at the amall longleafs standing in respect around the dead tree. I smile. “I’ll see you guys in October.”


You can listen to the audio podcast of yesterday’s post,  “The Landmark Pine.”


The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.

The next best time is today.


Other Tree Story Links

Dead Tree with Deep Roots

Leaning Trees

GPS on dead tree

The Miller Oak

The Evergreen Cedar



Author’s note:

On our first day back in Africa, I listened to the audio podcast of “The Landmark Pine.” That’s when the emotion overcame me. I didn’t feel that deeply until I made the 10,000 km journey back to here. That emotion resulted in the story you’ve just read.

Absence does make the heart grow fonder.


Coming Next


Tomorrow’s post will move us to Africa.  I’ll take you to several of my favorite African trees.




  • Chadan
    • As we plan for 2015, our Chadan Engagement Team is focused on three goals:
    1. Getting God’s Word out into the hands, hearts, and ears of the least reached.
    2. Being part of seeing Church Leaders trained.
    3. Going, seeing, and reporting on southern Chad and its people and needs.
    • We will do this by  Being Curious/ Being Amazed/Being a Reporter 






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