April 26, 2023–I recently decided to replace the shade tree in my front yard. It died about, oh, 28 years ago, so I figured it was time.
I dutifully researched what genus of tree to get. It had to be quick growing, yet not trashy; able to get by on little water, yet breast a flood; able to thrive in heat, yet survive a deep freeze.
This being Texas, it had to be deer proof.
After due diligence, I had no clue. So I did what I should have done in the first place; I went to the Texas AgriLife office. In Gillespie County, our Horticulture County Extension Agent is the gracious and knowledgeable Elizabeth McMahon.
She listened patiently to my litany of “X yet Y,” then handed me an info sheet and said, “Cedar Elm.”
McMahon was correct, of course. I went to Maldonado Nursery and picked out a robust specimen, dug a hole, planted it, and several weeks later it is thriving.
I’m first to admit that is a boring tale. Man needs tree; man finds tree; man plants tree.
But the next chapter is “tree mocks man.”
With my new interest in arboreal matters, I began inventorying the timber on my property. Oak wilt devastated my live oaks, so this was the first time I noticed a beautifully green tree flourishing 100 yards from my front door. I examined it with the idea of identifying it for future reference. I downloaded the Texas A&M app and went through the screens. I uploaded a photo to another app. It kept telling me it was an Osage orange, and I knew it wasn’t–we had those at our grade school in Iowa and used to throw the hard green balls at each other during recess.
Elizabeth! I sent her the same info that eluded the app. Her response was immediate and precise: “Cedar Elm.”
“You mean,” I replied carefully… “You mean that I spent several hundred dollars buying, transporting, and planting the very same tree that is growing 100 yards from my front door?”
She replied: “Now you have two.”
I love Elizabeth McMahon.
The point of this needlessly long story is that there is no shortage of anything on this planet. We have an abundance of trees. And energy. And food. And water. And potential marriage partners. What we lack, in abundance, is distribution.
If I could have magically moved that healthy tree the length of a football field, it would have solved my shade problem.
Ample solar energy can be harvested at El Paso, and wind energy in Montana. But we need that energy in Houston and Chicago.
Iowa is blanketed with corn and soybeans. But they need to be in Mexico and Japan to make tacos and tofu.
Everything is in the wrong place: Water. Money. Access to internet. Music–artists no longer control their music; downloaders do.
Even bodies. Planes, trains, and buses make us pay to cart our feeble vessels of flesh from meeting to conference to spa retreat where we can lose the weight we gained from being carted around.
Looking at history, the first truly wealthy people came from the ranks of those that were able not to produce goods, but to distribute them. From camel caravans to ships to trains to communications satellites, success accrued to those who moved spices, Sony Walkmans, and TikTok videos from producers to consumers.
But I can’t move a tree the length of a football field.
But there’s an upside. Every morning, I enjoy my two Cedar Elms.