Last week, I had a conversation with my daughter, and it went something like this:
“Have you seen all those hackberry trees growing along that fence line over there?”
“I’ve seen them.”
“Aren’t they amazing? It’s too bad they only grow along fence lines.”
“Mom, hackberries come up all over the place around here.”
“Really? I only see them along fences.”
“That’s because we’re mowing down all the rest.”
“Are you sure about that?”
She took a walk around the yard, then returned with a report. “Tiny hackberry trees are growing like weeds in multiple places on our property. If you want to keep any of them, all you have to do is stop cutting them down.”
There’s a large hackberry next to our deck and smaller hackberries down by the creek. They have proven to be the most hardy trees on our black, clay-filled ground. Suddenly, I pictured the rest of the land dotted with bright green leaves, branches rising up and stretching out, reaching for the sun.
When it comes to hackberries, Lee says cultivate; Phillip says eradicate.
I’m with Lee. He cites a man with a PhD who says that hackberries support 43 species of caterpillars. He says woodpeckers and waxwings come and perch on their branches.
They do not sow or reap or store away in barns. They eat the little purple berries straight off the trees.
I want to stop hacking down all the hackberries. I want to water them and support them and watch them grow. I want my loved ones to someday enjoy their shade. I want to gaze underneath them at a gathering of people who are feasting on tacos and nachos and singing the songs of a guitar-strumming singer-songwriter.
I’m going to find some stakes to mark the trees I want to keep. I’ll hammer them into the North Texas clay, where they will stand to say, “Pay attention. Let this be. Give it room. Let it breathe. Something good is rising up. Just you wait and see.”
April Pickle lives under a green roof with her husband, four children, and two dogs. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and teaches journalism and literature at a university-model high school. One cold day, when April was in the fourth grade, she closed the car door on her winter coat and, unbeknownst to her or her father, prevented the door from latching all the way. Half a mile down the road, her daddy turned a corner, the door flew open, and she fell out. Thanks to the thickness of the coat, she was unharmed.