Sycamore Trees

I love sycamore trees. I played hours alone as a boy under an ancient old specimen at my grandmother's. I love the leaves, the bark, the size, shape and smell of sycamore trees. I love everything about sycamore trees.

Sycamores are a tough lot they suffer badly during a hot dry summer. The older men are usually scarred from loss of limbs to ice and storm. They are very late to come out in spring and each year I anxiously await the many fine old gentlemen that populate my neighborhood to show signs of life. Every year just as I am about to despair some particularly gnarly one he displays his new leaves.

If looking for water, a surface stream, a spring or an underground pool look skyward for a sycamore. They love water. Some many years ago, I planted a small sycamore in the corner of my yard that collects runoff into a deep and wide French drain. He prospered in the perennially wet corner.

In his sixth year, torrential rains blitzed our town for 36 non-stop, hours. During this deluge, as I looked out into the backyard I watched my little sycamore begin to list. The youngster was being washed out. My young son and I rushed out looped a heavy rope around the trunk and lashed it to the garden gate. His ball had been about 40% exposed and we wondered if it would reset itself and he would live. It did and he did. Several years later during the construction of a brick fence around our yard my now mature friend sustained root shock. Once again, I feared he would not survive. The next spring showing quite a bit of limb loss he nonetheless gave leaf once more.

Three years thence, we experienced a horrible ice storm that devastated those branches not destroyed previously by the root shock. This time I knew for sure the old boy was a goner and sure enough that spring I counted only half dozen pathetic leaves on the entire 30-foot tree. The wide canopy of lush limbs he had once proudly shown were either gone or barren. He had finally succumbed.

That summer we had a Mexican tree crew out to trim our trees. Were Ruben an educated man one would call him an arborist as it is he is just a man of trees. Trees feed Ruben and his family and he loves them for it. On the strenuous urging of my wife, I reluctantly asked Ruben to take what was now no more than an eyesore down and haul it away. “Senor Hacker” “I think he might be saved, would you like me to try?” “You think so" I hoped. The gentle eyes in the wizened brown face smiled as he answered; “yes I think so”. Ruben owns no bucket truck or fancy ladders he trims trees the old-fashioned way, climbing into and up them on jackboots, with handsaws. He went to work and when he finished what was left was more totem pole than sycamore. The surgery was as radical as radical can get. “Now we wait,” Ruben announced.

It’s two years later now and I am looking out at a 30 foot sycamore just covered with life. No suckers here but new little branches full with lush green leaves. My sycamore has suffered virtually everything nature and man can throw at a tree. He has survived flood, trauma, drought and ice. In the most recent crisis, every live twig was cut back to the trunk. He must have hurt tremendously and felt terrifically embarrassed, even ashamed. Even so had Ruben not performed his draconian but gentle cutting my tree would have surely died.

The experience of my pal the sycamore reminds me of the painful and humbling ways my Lord grows me and prunes the death from me. As I look at the robust vitality of life on display out my window, I am reminded too that if He chose to spare me the hurt and shame caused by His loving care, I too would die.

I love sycamore trees.

A Call To Action

The United States Constitution belongs neither to the Supreme Court nor any other branch of the federal government but to the states and to the people. The 9th and 1oth amendments to that sacred charter bar the central government from the greater part of its mischief. Yet it continues to abuse and over-reach its privilege. If Washington can enforce on “we the people” a particular type of light bulb nothing then out of its malevolent grasp. The ballot box has proven ineffective in stopping the growth of Leviathan.

In 1799, Kentucky and Virginia in resolutions written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison declared the extra-constitutional and tyrannical Alien and Sedition Acts null and void within their respective borders. Thus was established the Doctrine of Nullification. The offending acts were soon repealed. In 1832, South Carolina risked war with Andrew Jackson’s budding empire by interposing the same doctrines with regard to the “Tariff of Abomination” Henry Clay’s “Great Compromise” forestalled for a generation bloody warfare between a sovereign state and its subordinate creation.

The current activity and enactions of the federal government are no more legal than those cited above – The Constitution is after all a legal document – and of far greater threat to liberty so dearly won and preserved. Citizens call out for justice and restraint but our words fall on the deaf ears of arrogant despots. Our cries to be effective, must be backed by the promise of bold action. Tyrannies are not easily undone. I call on the governors, legislatures and peoples of the fifty states to rise up in damnation of federal subjugation and follow the lead of their ancient fathers in Kentucky, Virginia and South Carolina. Nullification is legal within the four corners of The Constitution. It has been proven an effective restraint on federal excess. I pray we take this non-violent action now lest the jackboot and/or bloody revolt necessarily follow.

In Kentucky we have a saying “talk is cheap it takes money to buy whiskey”. So is it with freedom. There is no better way to celebrate this Independence Day than to stretch up tall and once more pledge our honor and treasure against the price of liberty, for ourselves and our posterity.