A champion falls …

It should no  surprise that the eastern hemlock was my favorite tree growing up.  It ALWAYS provided shade for those trout streams that I fished with my father, ALWAYS embraced the cold and deep swimming hole where I swam as a kid, and ALWAYS  with verdant comfort dotted the winter  landscape scenery of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  When they began to die off in my  backyard of Haywood County, I felt for the first time my own impending mortality.  What I had expected to be an ALWAYS in my life, was now an unsettling ponderance.

For any of you – and there are many – who have been a guest of ours at Big East Fork Camp, you have ritualistically been shown the champion hemlock in the front yard and by the creek.  Measuring over 16 feet in circumference, it exceeds the recorded state champion in Macon County.

A photograph can be for ALWAYS, and this I did last year knowing one day, the tree would be no longer.  At 7:14 a.m., Saturday September 8, 2012 (my wife K.B. and I were asleep on the front porch) and after several days of steady rain, the champion succumbed and fell into the river with a crack and a thundering crash.

Our tears fell into the yard with the rain.




8 Responses to “A champion falls …”

  1. lc says:

    there is a time for everything and everyone, great and small, and it is a very brief time in the entire scheme of things.

    though unpleasant and difficult to understand, the end is a beginning and that is all there is to focus on.

    old veteran still clings to the limestone here, but its day will come and i too will cry into the soil.

  2. Land Family says:

    To everything, turn turn turn
    There is a season, turn………

  3. Gordon Grant says:

    Houck and KB,
    That’s a beautiful elegy to a beautiful old tree. A reminder of mortality, all right, and also a reminder that time is short, change is constant, and we have time to finish what we have to finish, as Jeffers wrote….
    Best, and give us a call! We’d love to see you anytime.

  4. Claudia & Mike says:

    Houck & KB,
    We are sorry to hear of your loss, we too weep for the Hemlocks. Growing up I had a huge Elm in my backyard in Ohio.
    We had picnics and many years playing in its shade while growing up. I have always felt a kindred spirit with trees. When they die they remind us of our own mortality. It is always difficult to accept it.

  5. Houck and KB, I am so glad we got to see the Big Hemlock before the fall – your camp is a very special place – and when the tree falls in the forest, it does reverberate in our hearts – we hear the fall. The mountains are the canvas of constant change – enjoying every breath here so important. Thanks for sharing. I would still like to get some pinhole photos of the place…
    Phyllis and Mark

  6. jones and martha says:

    Rocky mountain streams shaded by hemlock branches are one of my favorite views. Canadian hemlocks are among the most graceful of trees.
    Sadly, I have watched the hemlock die-off along the New River in Grayson County, Virginia.
    The hemlock extinction [in progress] follows the demise of the Frasier fir on the Southern high peaks. Remember the wonderful Christmas tree smell walking through the balsams?
    Losing two important tree species in the mountain ecosystem in one human lifetime is scary stuff.
    We were lucky to see and experience balsams and hemlocks.

  7. Don Mikush says:

    Thank you including us in this tree’s (and your) magnificent story.

  8. Lee Salisbury says:

    As I helped our daughter with her school leaf collection last week, I was reminded of my deep love for trees. I am saddened by the passing of this old hemlock and the demise of the entire species. As with others we love, the fond memory is all we can hang on to.

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