A place for piece.
They stood tall – back to back. Heads high.
This had been their home long before 1691.
Until that wandering Spaniard stumbled upon them.
Once found, they were lost?
Never trained in self-defense, they watch helplessly as some of their own were carried off – as far as northern Mexico.
The rough abductions weren’t quiet affairs.
It scarred the community.
The night winds carried their quaking and terrified whispers wondering the fate of those spirited away.
The fallen never returned.
The community could only hope they were able to build a new life wherever they ended up.
But now, 2011.
This could destroy them all.
All good things must come to an end.
Only the natural order of things?
Besides they were, well, an oddity , out-of-place.
Shouldn’t be there.
Cut off from the others.
But they stood tall.
Generations of them.
(Rumored to live hundreds and hundreds of years.)
Together they faced the flames that crept to their feet.
Willing courage to hope of life reborn after this trial by fire.
Small seeds of hope was all they had.
It was enough.
The guardian entrusted served them well.
And now they are returning.
To set down roots.
Labor Day, 2011, wildfires started scorching Texas. Burning for weeks, the devastating fires cost 2 lives, burned about 1,673 homes, made over 33,00 thousand acres resemble moonscape, killed cattle and wildlife, and destroyed miles of forested land – including two-thirds or more of the 6,000 acre Bastrop State Park where the strange population of Lost Pines existed.
Loblolly pines shouldn’t be there. Lost Pines forest covers about 13 miles across central Texas – much farther west than other loblolly forests.
It could be remnants of an ancient forest that shrank during an Ice Age.
These trees are tough and drought resistance.
But no match for wildfires.
Panic and a scramble of phone calls.
Where were the seeds?
That specific genetic stock of the original tall loblolly forest of Lost Pines.
Two decades ago, the forest service, planning to preserve and reseed pine forests in 5 states, collected thousands of loblolly pine seeds.
But then the Texas Forest Service closed it’s tree farms.
Couldn’t sell the seeds. Other pines are better for timber growers.
No one wanted them.
So 1,100 pounds were stored in a freezer belonging to Brookshire Brother’s in Lufkin,Texas.
About to be dumped.
But something kept holding one man back from making final arrangements.
Then the fires began.
Tom Byram, Texas A&M Forest Service geneticist, rushed to check on the seeds, then called experts in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.
They’ve been busy.
Now there are some 500,00 Loblolly seedlings about 10 inches tall ready to hit the road and go home to set down roots.
And there’s more where those came from: enough for 14 million trees.
The first plantings have started.
Eventually Lost Pines will be once again standing tall.
Pampered grandchildren trees taking their rightful place.
Right where they belong.
And the State of Texas is rethinking its’ plans for securing biodiversity.
Aldo Leopold was right: “The first rule of tinkering is to save all the pieces”
That thought ought to spread like wildfire.
Fond of pines (some grow cattle, we grew trees),
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge
Read more about 3 types of yellow pine:
(Yellow pine wood is what you usually buy at the lumber store / used in home construction)
Loblolly is not your glamour girl of pines.
- Doesn’t have the long fine green needles reminding you of super models lashes like Slash pines do
- Not the obedient growing straight as soldiers pines favored by tree plantations (must have all that pine for furniture, 2×4’s and construction grade boards to ship to China)
- Tend to grow crooked, gnarled with lots of branches (creates knots in the wood) – and drops needles like crazy, so lots of raking for homeowners
- But they are tough and drought resistant preferring well-drained soil.
Slash pines are the tall, flashy, fast growers with long dark needles. These prefer humidity and moist soils, but do not do well in wind or ice storms. (Depressing to walk out and see rows of them broken in half after a storm.)
Longleaf Pines are very slow growers, may live 500 years, and prefer coastal areas. These smart trees have developed survival techniques for forest fires. They seal themselves against flames and survive.
- “Wildfires Underscore the Need for Seed” AUDIO program. Pictures – and great story.
- “Forged in Flames: Listen to Documentary of the 2011 Labor Day Fires” VIDEO
Texas Parks and Wildlife. “Life after Wildfire: The Future of Bastrop State Park”. Map of fire at Lost Pines, pictures of park, info about what’s happening now in the park.
During the devastating wildfires, pleas were made for Federal Assistance to help fight the fires threatening major population areas. Denied.
After the devastating wildfire, requests were made for FEMA and emergency assistance for ranchers, farmers, and those affected. Denied.
Still, it’s important to send taxpayers’ money overseas to help other countries.
The cobbler’s child goes without shoes.