Saturday, October 23, 2010


In early summer of 2005 we were busy improving our lot in the cool mountains. We had received a gift of five desert hardy plants that turned out to be exceedingly beautiful and lush. Humming Birds loved the blossoms of the Hyssop, unfortunately it contracted an unknown fatal disease. It has not been replaced as yet. The Lavender has smelled heavenly. The Nearly Wild Rose blooms more profusely each year. The Spiraea has become a hardy bush covered with deep blue blossoms for nearly a month in late summer.
L:Lavender. Center to Back:Tyme, Violet Skull Cap, Nearly Wild Rose,
Blue Spiraea. R:Hyssop. Far Upper Right: Russian Sage.
The lady of the house had bought and planted an Asian Elm tree the year before, 2004. Now, 2005,  she was looking for an Aspen, but none of the nurseries, including Home Depot and Lowes, had any stock. One day after our weekly shopping trip to town, she was digging a hole in our rock hard, unrelenting soil. I sauntered up asked, "What are you planting now?" She grinned, looked at me, then picked up a spindly tree and plopped it into the hole, splashed in water and planting soil. I looked at it and blanched. (That means turned pale with fear and foreboding.) I said in an overly loud voice, "That's a Cottonwood!" "Why, yes it is," was the response.

I suppose you may think this may be humorous or even a bit of a wacky exchange, but let me explain. Here at our summer abode, in the previous year, 2004, there had arisen problems with several sewer lines being plugged, one of our little lakes (ponds) got messed up with some roots plugging an aerator and several other such problems. The varmint responsible, you guessed it, "The Cottonwood." There was much ado about a lot and everyone in charge of everything was all bent out of shape. Thinking of how to control what ever! Home owners were at a loss as to what really was going on, although a few were even cursing the white fuzz that blew around from "The Cottonwoods." The owners of a Cottonwood were silent.

Needless to say, there was a large movement to remove the offensive monsters from the area under discussion. In all there were, I think, only four of the offenders in the park of any size. Two of which were at least forty feet high. Thereupon descended the SWAT team armed with Memos, letters and a newly hatched Guideline with two lines on the page:
1.   "Thou shall not plant any tree called Cottonwood within the confines of the park." And,
2.   "There shall not be any tree known as Cottonwood to be allowed to remain within the confines of said park in a living state at any time in the future or any other time to follow that."

The Cottonwood Tree owners gritted their teeth and called Tree Removal Services. Within a week all the Cottonwood trees within the confines of the park had departed the living state. All, that is, except one very large Cottonwood on top of a hill. The removal of this last of the Cottonwoods was a sad day for some, especially it's owner and many of us. The Cottonwood is a green thing of beauty, unfortunately fast growing and unstoppable in it's expansion. Just too much for our tiny lots where we precariously park our living quarters, cars, bicycles and bits of greenery to lighten the somber crushed rock material spread over all. Being of volcanic origin, the crushed rock resembles cinders from a furnace. Actually they are cinders . . . from a big furnace.

Now back to the Cottonwood seedling. There was a lively conversation over that newly planted tree! I said, "Put is back in the pot and we can take it back for credit." "No, I have dug the hole it's planted and I want it right there." All my ranting and explanations of, "They will make us remove it!" to avail. "OK, it will come out sometime." was the best response I could elicit.

One of the busybodies in the park came by and gazed at the tree for what I thought was longer than just curiosity. Sure enough, "What kind of tree is that?" came from her lips. "Ugh . . . , it belongs to the Poplar family." was my response. "I think that must be a Cottonwood!" I could not deny, nor did I try to deny. From there I got a lecture about how bad a tree it was and that the powers that be would make me remove it from my lot . . . . I think we stood there for at least ten minutes while I was lectured. Finally, my reply, "I will take care of it when the time comes." The person left. At that time I did not realize how prophetic the statement of 'when the time comes' was.

The rest of the summer went by with only a few natters on my part about the "tree having to come out." And it just grew. The SWAT team never came by, I did not receive a notice of removal. And it grew more.

June of 2006 was another spectacular year in the mountains. We were really liking the quiet; Elk, Deer, Coyotes drifting by. (Too many Rabbits.) We settled in, set up our computers and proceeded to do our quietness. The Cottonwood had grown . . . as expected. The bushes were trimmed, new perennials and annuals planted. We sat and watched them all grow; thats the way retirement should proceed. Enjoyment of the space and time was our goal; we were achieving it. The Cottonwood entered into our conversaton later before we were to return south. "I think that Cottonwood should be removed before we leave this year." The response was such that leaving without it's removal was the most intelligent thing to do.

June of 2007 was nearly a repeat of 2006 as far as the Cottonwood was concerned. Except it grew even more and seemingly faster than ever before. 2008 was even more of the same and became more passe' if possible? The Cottonwood spurted growth to ever greater speeds and size. By 2009 I was in a frenzy. Arriving in June The Cottonwood was frightening. Somehow I swallowed hard and turned my back to the problem, knowing it was not the time for action yet. I cut the main trunk at about ten feet in height to keep it from getting too tall to handle. No one was either aware of my problem or maybe no one cared anymore. I never asked to find out.

Now, June 2010 came and with cause for dread for me. The Cottonwood had multiplied in size beyond all my comprehension. Topping it the previous year just gave it a spurt in growth out instead of up. The trunk was now nearly five inches in diameter and expanding daily. Further, as it was a beautiful green growing tree, I had become attached. All that summer I pushed and prodded for the demise of The Cottonwood. I was beginning to hate myself. Why had I allowed this to happen? Now I had to be the Ogre and kill the monster. So along about mid-summer everything came to a head. Our confrontation was harsh, sad and final. A decision was made that before the end of our occupation for the summer The Cottonwood would die! The Lady wanted and did call our son in the Valley and asked if he would come to assist me in the terrible deed. As it turned out he could not, due to a project he was responsible for at the Hospital. (He probably did not want to hurt his mother's feelings either.)

One of our neighbors had a large trailer that would hold all the branches and trunk in one load and was willing to haul it to the garbage center just three miles away. So one day, September 12th to be exact, the trailer was parked next door and the cutting began. The first day all but the topmost branches were cut. That was enough for my psyche to handle for the day. The next morning the top branches came down and the trunk was cut at four feet so that the decorative chair would be attached to keep it from blowing over.

The deed was done. I am now writing this post to my blog to work out the feelings I had and have about the situation called "The Cottonwood." So far, I think it is working. I can now see the humor, (a little) the sadness, (a lot) and acceptance (sigh) of the happening (transaction) between all concerned.

The End


  1. Thing is the tree is now gone-- all but a stretch of stump. Bruce had truly learned to love this tree as I had. I could look out our bedroom window and see lush green rather than street or park models-- a bit of privacy, too. I wanted the cutting down to be delayed while the other plants were maturing. We have a Juniper from Patrick's yard in Reno, now 6 ft. And the Asian elms are maturing. Sunburst Acacia will be beautiful next Spring and summer. Whispering Aspen is lovely to see and listen to. And, of course, there is a blue spruce slowly, very slowly beginning to grace the yard.

  2. This reminds me of our huge rubber tree that was once a potted plant when we moved in, but the man of the house took a fancy to it. Wish I could take it out, no matter how beautiful it is, as I know it will work havoc on the bottom of the pool someday.