recent amputee looks forward to a long, hot summer.
TE Photo June, 2005
reader is asked to remember that the year is 1939.
"Tree Murder in La Grange"
(from the Fayette County Record, August 29, 1939)
There's a report coming out of Austin, printed in some
of the dailies [note plural] and reprinted in full or in part in some
of the neighboring towns, which puts the town of La
Grange in an unfavorable and incorrect light.
It is with reference to the city's removal of trees and limbs which
are considered to be dangerous.
The daily press story read in part: "City authorities have ordered
the massive oak trees standing in and near the streets to be cut down;
and many of them have already been cut, despite the vehement protest
of the citizens, women's clubs and other groups. Apparently every
one of the historic trees which so much impress visitors to La Grange
have been marked for "murder"..."
Alderman Fritz Maas, chairman of the street and bridge committee,
was contacted to find out how that report squared with the facts.
Here is his story:
Exactly three oak trees have been removed. One was on the edge of
the street, its trunk a mere shell and its limbs rotten,a constant
menace to the safety of traffic and pedestrians alike. Another was
almost in the middle of a street intersection, badly decayed and constituting
a hazard to traffic. The third was on the edge of a street in a grove
of several trees, consisting chiefly of a trunk with little foliage,
and leaning dangerously over the street; once removed it was never
All other trees removed were hackberry trees which were so diseased
that they were a constant menace to safety, and most were removed
at the request of the property owners in front of whose homes the
There is one other oak that the city expects to take out. It also
is in a grove along the side of a street and extends low over narrow
bridge which makes it dangerous.
The highway department has been asked by the city to remove three
other oaks that are in the highway. Another is to one side of the
highway opposite a deep drainage ditch which allows but little space
for passing of cars. All three trees are in poor condition. However
if the highway department believes that they are not hazardous, the
city is willing that they remain, but it expects a statement to that
effect from the highway safety engineer.
Many trees have "been marked" alright, but for trimming, not "murder."
Work on most of them has been completed. On others, dangerous limbs
have been removed, and workmen will return later to apply the finishing
The city's trees were untouched for several years. Last year a limb
fell and crushed two cars. A jury held the city guilty of negligence
in not removing the limb and the city was out of [sic] $435.00. It
immediately made an inspection of all trees and ordered removal of
dangerous trees and limbs.
Not fully understanding the city's plans, at least two organizatrions
compalined to the council or the committee in charge. There never
has been a "vehement protest." Most of the complaints have been cleared
up and, on a whole, the people of the city appreciate the fact that
the council is not acting to injure the city, but in its best interests.
Our thanks to A.C. of Austin for sending
the original clipping.
Grange's Muster Oak: "heathier than it was thirty years ago."
TE Photo 2000
Historic Muster Oak c.1900
Courtesy Fayette County Heritage Museum & Archives
Grange is one of Texas' "Tree-in-the-Street
Communities" and is also home to the "Muster
Oak" - one of Texas'
more famous trees (that didn't involve a hanging). Thanks to excellent
professional care, the Muster
Oak is today thriving on the NE corner of the La
Grange townsquare. Indeed, it's healthier than it was thirty years
ago. In general, the overall care of La Grange's trees is exceptional,
however, sometimes questionable decisions are made. "Topping" trees
is a drastic and totally unnecessary practice. Why is it done? Because
people have seen it done since they were children. There has to be
a reason for doing it - right?
Tree topping is a hold-over from the same era when the Navy instructed
its sailors (should they find themselves in shark-infested waters)
to splash around and make as much commotion as they could. Another
parallell would be the old practice of bleeding someone. "Grandpa's
looking a little anemic - let's take a couple of pints of blood -
that'll fix him right up."
Homeowners should not model their tree care after the practices of
those companies that keep utility lines clear. Those companies work
on a year-round schedule - and (if you can keep a secret) - they couldn't
care less if every damn tree in Texas died - they'll just move over
some tree species (pecans and sycamores) tolerate the deplorable practice
better than others, this doesn't mean that it's good for them. Relatively
short-lived ash, hackberry, chinaberries and Chinese tallow trees
- widely considered weed trees - are extremely tolerant. The trimming
of desirable trees should be done in the fall or winter when they
are dormant. Still, every spring hundreds, if not thousands of trees
in every community will be cut back just as the sap is flowing. Yes,
the trees will probably survive - but so might your grandfather if
you cut off an arm and/or a leg. One thing is for certain - both tree
and grandfather won't be getting any healthier because of their unwanted
surgery - and while your grandfather might cut you off from his will
- your tree will just quietly suffer a long drawn-out death or get
infected by some exotic beetle or virus (people who top trees seldom
seal the cuts they make).
Independence, Kansas (through it's cable TV station) is educating
the public with a televised message that tells their citizens to not
top their trees - and finishes up the PSA with the memorable phrase:
"Think of it as a bad haircut that kills."
© John Troesser
"They shoe horses, don't
19, 2005 Column