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Kathleen Gurbacki: Lovely tree provided years of enjoyment

I tried not to break down and cry, especially in front of all those men. They would probably think I’m crazy. After all, we had hired them to do a job. Cutting down trees is their line of work. But it was my tree, the one I grew from a twig.

Ten years ago, I wrote in this very column about my twig. It was a gift from an Arbor Day donation. This twig was one of several that I had received and the only one without a tag identifying it. Of all the twigs sent, it was the only one to survive.

Even though we never knew what kind of tree it was, my husband, Fred, and I nurtured it. We planted it in our flower garden and, after it outgrew that space, we transplanted it behind our house.

Lately we could see signs that we didn’t like. Leaves and branches were starting to die. The roots were making their way into my flower beds. And the tree was so large that its leaves filled our gutters, creating a lot of work every fall. A decision had to be made as to what we should do with it.

Fred knew how attached I was to this tree so he only made suggestions, never pressuring me. But in the back of my mind, I knew it had to come down.

Our neighbors Pat and Jim across the street were having some work done to their drain pipes and had to have a tree cut down as a result of that project. One day, as the men were cutting down that tree, I got up enough nerve to ask my husband to go and get an estimate from them.

I was curious as to what it would cost to cut down our tree. After all, an estimate was not a commitment. We still had time to decide. Yeah, sure! The estimate was reasonable and according to the tree people, the work could be done as soon as they finished the job across the street. “Be brave,” I said to myself, and gave Fred the nod. Then I reached for my handkerchief.

When the workers arrived in our backyard with their heavy equipment, I found out that Greg, the man in charge, not only cut down trees for a living, but also planted them. He worked for a nursery years ago, was very knowledgeable and had an appreciation for nature. He supported Arbor Day and I liked him immediately.

After cutting down our tree, he took the time to look at the stump. You could tell that he was compassionate about his work. He counted the rings and reflected on the 35 years our tree had lived. He marveled at the growth spurt evident in the rings during the year that we moved it to a better location behind our house.

He also informed us that it was an ash and pointed out the holes in the branches. The holes were evidence that our tree was being infected by that pesky insect, the emerald ash borer.

This information was exactly what I needed to hear. It convinced me that we had made the right decision. I knew that if we had waited any longer, we would have had to deal with the insect as well. Our tree was slowly dying.

We will plant another tree in its place. Not an ash and not a twig, but something a bit larger, around 5 to 6 feet tall. We will also let the next generation worry about cleaning out the leaves in the gutters.