THE IDLE AMERICAN: Out on a limb

Published 6:04 am Saturday, March 24, 2018

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury


Angry “harrumphs” in our crazed, crossways world drown out “hurrahs,” hands down.

Flag-waving optimists now droop where they formerly dared.

If Johnny came marching home today, a substantial element might try to send him back. (In New York City, someone posted a sign directed at newcomers: “If you can make it there, go back.”)

Unquestionably, topics formerly sacrosanct are now “under further review,” with no resolution in sight. We who are longest of tooth yearn to hear again the voices of Kate Smith belting out “God Bless America,” and Dr. Billy Graham proclaiming God’s good news to hungry hearts.

That said, I pressed the “seek” button on the car radio the other day, randomly settling on a talk show that “went rowdy” before I could draw a good breath.

A guy was screaming at lungs’ limits to the point of risking a blow-out of ballooning neck veins.

In mere minutes, I was disturbed by his rants, none of which I felt held water. The jerk was “carping”–no, I think more nearly “whaling”–against defenseless trees. What’s worse, his hate centered on a variety formerly near to my heart. A harbinger of spring, a sure sign of renewal, a certain symbol of God’s handiwork–all of these are mindful with the annual overnight blooming of Bradford pear trees.

He had “no truck” for such trees. To him, they are fickle, promising pears, but producing only blossoms. Honeybees buzz the Bradfords only when nothing better is available, and some cities are banning them.

He claimed the trees to be short-lived, and an “environmental calamity.” I fumed, changing stations upon his claiming that credible nurseries won’t sell them.

If that were true, where did the dozens encircling our church come from?

Then, I committed a bigger blunder than when I chose that radio station.

I “Googled” Bradford pears. Please, please don’t do it! Facts can greatly confuse. Remember, there’s something to be said for living on in ignorance.

The “ranter” touched only the hem of the garment. Respected horticulturalists are
“singing his song,” one suggesting that Bradfords should all be cut down. Another said that they smell like dead fish.

I don’t “stand corrected.” More nearly, I remain flopped in my recliner, unsure how I now feel about Bradford pears. Thoughts flood about “tree” songs and poems. I think of my teary-eyed youth, fervently reciting Trees, a Joyce Kilmer poem written a century ago. He urged the woodman to spare the tree. If I sobbed at the right time, I figured I might get a ribbon for poetry reading at the “County Meet.” (I didn’t, but I got “honorable mention.”)

There are many childhood remembrances of swaying on swings tied on the lowest limbs. And my momma yelling, “Get down out of that tree right now or I’ll give you a good ‘switching’.” Oh, and let’s include robins building nests in trees’ “hair,” and the village smithy spared from heat exhaustion “under a spreading Chestnut tree.”

In Waco recently, we visited the Mammoth exhibit. The guide’s opening words heralded a spreading, 250-year-old oak tree at the entrance. Even if visitors’ interest in seeing where mammoths wallowed is minimal, this is a mighty fine tree.

My position on Bradfords now is shaky at best. I don’t feel strongly in either direction. However, I’ll never be as hard-nosed as one nursery visitor who said he hates pears, and will promptly return all the Bradford trees if even ONE pear appears.

I’ve saved allergy problems for last. If you have such issues and are driving near our church on a beautiful March day, hold your breath and keep your windows closed. Think of the purity symbolized by the magnificent blankets of white blossoms on the Bradfords.

Don’t be surprised if they name a committee to study whether God really wants such trees on His Holy ground.


Dr. Newbury is a former educator who still “commits” speeches round about. Comments/inquiries to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury; Facebook, don newbury.