Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

The old oak tree, an ancient pioneer

Wick's World


Yesterday we said goodbye to an ancient pioneer. Although I had only met him a little over a year ago, I felt I already had a long affinity with the old guy. He was in my back yard by the lake long before I lived here. He knew Old Doc Fitz when he had his vet clinic that sat on the shore of Fitz Lake in southeastern Eagan, Minnesota. He also remembered the big spike we found in his side — the one that was most likely a support for a deer stand back when deer roamed the area and people were still living mostly over in St. Paul.

The old man was actually an infested oak tree that sat in my back yard until yesterday. A huge rhinoceros beetle had infected its bark and pulverized the innards into something resembling rich manure. Indeed it turned out to be the beetle's manure that let off the odiferous smell recognized by my wife, three of our neighbors and the six tree surgeons that felled the old man.

What began as a call to "trim" a few trees around the yard, mostly to get them off our roof, turned into a $3,750 job, half of which was the cost of dropping, limbing and shredding the stump of the old guy who was becoming less popular by the dollar.

For my wife and I, it was hard to commit to killing such an ancient tree. We grew up on the prairie of South Dakota where most natives held trees in revered awe. There simply wasn’t that many of them around. But this old guy was not only as hollow as a politician’s speech, it was also leaning over my neighbor’s roof. If we didn’t take him down, the next wind out of the autumn’s northwest surely would.

After we watched the guy who can be best described as the "Tree Wizard” do his magic, the whole neighborhood came around to ask, “How much would you charge to remove a tree in my yard?” Standing tall at 6-foot, 6 inches and weighing in at a lean, muscular 190 pounds, the Tree Wizard climbed, balanced, cajoled, roped, limbed, sawed, cut and dropped every piece of that hundred-year oak tree into a pile hardly larger than the bullseye at an archery stand.

Nearing the end of the day, the Minnesota Vikings were in their most comfortable position of losing badly. The rhino beetles we found in the hollowed-out trunk were stinking on a comparable level as the Vikings. They looked like the largest slugs you had ever seen in your garden. Meanwhile, part of the oak tree was in the shredder while the bulk of the old guy was lying in big chunks on our lawn.

Tree Wizard commented, “Those beetles are really good for catching bass.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Fitz Lake was now bullhead-infested and any remaining bass were wondering what had happened since Doc Fitz abandoned the pet cemetery in our back yard. For the record, we have never been haunted by the ghosts of dead animals, but our neighbor did have a story to tell us. She couldn’t figure out why her preschool children’s bedroom smelled so bad. One day she looked in a drawer and found a cow’s hoof deteriorating into glue.


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