The Oak Tree's Revenge

Treat an oak tree with respect or it will punish you.

I belong to The Ridge and Valley Tellers—a story-telling guild in Rome, Georgia. Each year our group hosts “The Big Fibbers” which is a storytelling expo featuring professional storytellers and a contest for amateurs like—ME.This year I decided that I would win the contest.And, then things changed and the event was cancelled.So, I decided to write the story and put it on my Johntheplantman blog. I mean, the story is plant-related. So, here it is—enjoy.


The boy lived with his Paw Paw because his Pa had gone to the war and never returned. He and Paw Pawstood outside their modest, board and batten home on the farm.The boy said, “Paw Paw, I want to plant a tree. When is a good time to do that?”Paw Paw said, “Well, son, they say that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago and the next best time is today.”The boy jumped up and down. “Oh, boy, let’s plant one.”Paw Paw got a shovel from the barn and handed it to the boy who walked behind, holding the shovel over his shoulder like a rifle.They walked out to the woods and looked at several saplings. Paw Paw put his hand on one and said, “This here’s a good one, hit’s a white oak tree and hit will live for a long time.”Paw Paw showed the boy how to dig up the sapling carefully. He said, “be careful, now ‘cause a oak tree willpunish you if you ain’t careful and kind to it.”

They took the tree home and chose a spot to the left side of the front porch which faced south. “This way, said Paw Paw, the tree will shade the house in the summer and make it cool. Then in the winter, the tree willdrop its leaves and let the sun in to warm the house. Oak trees are kind and will take care of you if you show them a bit of respect.”he boy went to the well and hauled several buckets of water. “I’ll keep it watered, Paw Paw.”


The boy had inherited the farm and house. He had raised his family there and now he was Paw Paw  to his own grandson. The farm was close to town and the price of cotton was way down, so when some developers offered to purchase the farm, Paw Paw took them up on it. But he made some terms:

`1. One of the streets would run in front of the farm house and it would be named “Oakwood Street in honor of the beautiful 60 year-old tree.

2. Paw Paw would take some of the money from the sale and order him a “ready to build Craftsman House” from Sears and Roebucks.

3. The carpenters who worked for the developer would demolish the farm house and erect the Craftsman house.

4. No one would disturb or damage the tree in any manner.

One day, the new grandson was with Paw Paw while he was watching the construction men. He stood next to the stately oak tree and yelled at anyone who looked as if they would disturb it.The boy said, “Paw Paw, why do you care so much about that there old tree?”Paw Paw replied, “Boy, that there is a white oak tree. Me and my Paw Paw planted it sixty years ago. You got to take care of a oak tree or it will punish you.”That’s silly, Paw Paw, how can a tree punish you?” the boy aske“Hell, boy, I don’t know, that’s just what my Paw Paw told me when I was ten.”


Paw Paw had lived to be 100 years old. That was all he had in him. His dying words to his grandson were, “Boy, I done left you the house. Take care of the oak tree.” And then he passed on.But the grandson needed money and he sold the house to a woman who was kind of pretty except that the corners of her mouth always turned down. At the sales closing, the grandson said, “My Paw Paw said to treat that oak tree good or it would punish you.” The lady said, “What kind of poppycock is that?”


The lady’s mouth turned down even more. Every time she passed by that tree she said, “I hate that tree. It keeps the sun off my flower bed in the summer time and I have to rake up a ton of leaves in the fall.” One day, a busybody from down the street asked, “ain’t you ‘fraid that tree’s gonna fall on yore house?”And that was all it took. She called a tree guy.“Lady,” said the tree guy, “That there tree ain’t gonna fall on your house. It’s gonna be there long after you’re gone.”

She said, “No it ain’t. I want you to cut it down.”The tree guy was an honest man. He said, “Ma’am, I just cain’t bring myself to cut down that beautiful tree.” And he went away. As he was getting in his truck he looked down and found a hundred-dollar bill that the wind had blown up.

So the lady with the turn down mouth called Bubba and Leroy’s tree service. Bubba made her a reasonable price and “garnteed” that he would haul off the wood. He didn’t tell the lady that he could get premium top dollar for the trunk of the tree at the sawmill and that he could get lots of truckloads of farwood that he could sell for forty dollars a load.

So Bubba and Leroy got them a big old chain saw and started cutting on the tree. They cut up the large limbs into farwood lengths and took them to Leroy’s house. It took them a long time to cut the trunk up and the sawmill guy sent a truck with a lift on it to haul the trunk away. The sawmill guy was going to make him a bunch of money.

There were still plenty of limbs to cut up but when Leroy was cutting on a big one, his chain saw stuck and the limb flipped around and hit him in the head. Leroy suffered brain damage and died two days later.

Now Bubba finished the job and he was sorry about Leroy, but he reckoned that it was ok and that Leroy would want him to keep all of the money for himself. But he had forgotten one thing.

The lady with the turn down mouth said, “That looks good, Bubba, but I did tell you that I want the stump ground up. I don’t want to be looking at that stump. I hated that tree and I hate that stump. Get it gone.

Bubba didn’t care, he was making good money anyhow, so he went and got his friend Sammy who had a stump grinder. Sammy said that it was a way big stump but he would take on the job if Bubba would help him. Grinding out that stump was a slow process. At one point, the stump grinder got stuck in the wood and Bubba ran over and kicked it. Bubba slipped and the stump grinder cut off his leg.They sewed Bubba up at the hospital but he was never “right” again and he died an early death.

The stump took a while longer after Bubba’s accident and the lady with the turn down mouth decided that she liked Sammy. While the lady’s husband was gone to work, the lady and Sammy got to kissin’ on each other and all sorts of things in the back room but her husband had his suspicions and he came home with his pistol. He kicked open the door and shot his wife. Sammy was crawling out the back window when the husband shot him. Then the husband shothimself.

The husband died, the woman was wounded but she lived through it and Sammy had been shot in the backbone and was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.

One day, about a year later, the lady with the turn down mouth was looking at the remains of the stump. There was a beautiful red and yellow lichen growing on it. She picked it up and smelled it. The powder on top of the lichen went into her lungs and caused her to have fungal pneumonia and she later died. Sammy lived on but he wasn’t ever happy again.

After the lady died, the house had been sold to a very nice and happy young couple who raised two children and then became grandparents. The grandchildren called the man “Paw Paw.”


The boy and the old man stood out in the yard. The boy pointed to the corner of the porch and asked, “Paw Paw, why is there a great big low place ovr there?”

Paw Paw replied, “Well, that there’s what they call a ‘stump hole.’ It’s where there was a tree that died or got cut down. After many years the tree stump and roots rot and it makes a hole. I keep meaning to do something about it.”

The boy said, “Paw Paw, why don’t we plant another tree over there?”

“That’s a great idea,” said Paw Paw. “And since this is on Oakwood Street, we can plant a white oak tree.”

He paused and looked down at the smiling boy, “but you’ll have to take care of it because…

The end for now.

The Basics of Pruning by John Schulz and Dekie Hicks
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