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Reluctant farewell to a beloved tree

Donnie Watkins came by three times in two years to ask if I'd like “him” taken down. “He” was old and bent over, but he provided shade, beauty and continuity in the landscape. Each time I said no because I couldn't bring myself to remove the grand tree from my yard. I knew it was there way before any of us.

It was hit by lightning two years ago. My neighbor saw the bolt strike. It was damaged, but the tree came back green and lush.

Each season we would see proof of the damage, but we hoped we were mistaken. Slowly he turned brown on the top, at least six stories high. The brown leaves ran down the sides to the bottom.

Last month all the rain bore down, making his trunk heavy. It caused him to shed several large branches. Neighbors told me they warned visitors never to park near him. Another neighbor even put a note in my door for a tree cutter.

The Watkins brothers arrived and, like surgeons, tenderly severed branches and the trunk. They said parts of the trunk weighed about 400 pounds.

I was sad this part of Weddington's history would be gone. Frank Watkins, Donnie's older brother and part of D&C Tree Stump Service, said kindly, “everything dies.”

Did you know you can tell how old a tree is by how many rings are on the trunk? I counted 110 rings.

Tree trunks grow thicker every year by adding a new ring. New growth takes place in the cambium, a thin layer of generative tissue between the bark and the wood. You can also find out how rainy or dry a season was by looking at the tree rings. During much rain, the rings will be thicker.