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The Hanging Tree (standard:other, 3611 words)
Author: anonymousAdded: Apr 22 2009Views/Reads: 3170/1904Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
An aging southern gentleman enthralls two college students with tales of his town's past.

The Hanging Tree 

CD Sutton II 

Where did you say you were from? Syracuse? That's in New York State,
isn't it? 

When I was a small child, (‘bout 60 years ago, if my brains haven't
failed me) there was this large maple tree that stood in the center of 
our town, and was partially responsible for the town's name. Accordin' 
to local history, we were founded in 1758 by a successful businessman 
from the Boston area, a Mr. Wallingford Grove. Now, Mr. Grove had 
vacationed in our fair state about two years before, and had been so 
pleased with the look of the land that he decided to retire here. He 
chose, for the site of his town, a smallish clearin' amidst a stand of 
maples, and the only thing I can figure is that he had lost his 
ambition and didn't think the town would grow beyond the approximate 
size of two city blocks. But, by all accounts, he loved the place (and 
the trees) and decided to name it Maple Grove. 

There was no way to tell the tree's exact age, but the state university,
in nineteen and eleven, sent an arborist down here to try. He took some 
bark samples and did some core drillin' in the main trunk, and took 
them back to his laboratory for testing. Some years later he published 
a book on the subject, entitled "The Trees of the Deep South." I have a 
copy of it somewhere; let's see...oh, here it is. This book, published 
by Harcourt in nineteen twenty-three, says that our town's 
"centerpiece" was, at the time of publica-tion, upwards of two hundred 
and twenty-five years old. Think on that: two hundred and twenty-five 
years.  When I first read that, I remember thinkin' that was a long 
time for anythin' to be alive. 

Now, the tree was famous in our area; in fact, it was known as a
landmark in three surroundin' counties. By nineteen and twenty-one, 
word had spread as far as Plymouth township, almost a hundred and 
twenty-five miles away. The town newspaper of Plymouth sent its 
features editor and a photographer all the way down here to take 
pictures and speak to our mayor about it. The whole town turned out for 
what was then a huge event; hell, the editor of our own newspaper, The 
Bugle, was out in the middle of the street shootin' photo upon photo of 
the Plymouth Herald's shutterbug takin' photo upon photo of the tree, 
the town, and various personages of varyin' importance. The good 
Reverend Granger of our local Methodist church was later heard to 
remark that he never seemed to see this many people in his pews on a 
given Sunday, once again ignor-in' that two-thirds of the townspeople 
were devoutly Baptist. 

As a boy, however, I wasn't much concerned with our history. I spent my
days much like most boys, I guess, in pursuit of adventures and 
fun...and trouble. In the summer, my friends and I would gather near 
the tree like hummingbirds to hibiscus. Some of the older residents, 
mostly shopkeepers and such, remarked that you could set a timepiece by 
it; every bright mornin', we were there at exactly 7:30 a.m. That was 
one of the rules of our...did I mention we had a club? No? Well, we 
did. We did. The club was typical of most kid's clubs; we had a 
president and a vice-president (Joey McManus and myself, respectively) 
, and as I said before, we had rules; let's see, I can still remember a 
few: no girls (that was a big one), no new members without prior 
approval of the entire group, and no climbin' above roof level of the 
town hall, which stood near-by. There was talk among our membership 
that this particular rule had been insisted upon by Joey's mother, but 
it was a rule... and none dared break it. The penalty for breakin' that 
rule was "lockered," a word we invented to replace the harshness of 
"banishment."  All in all, though, my childhood was a romp, a 
neverending adventure of which I have fond memories. But you didn't 
come to hear me wax reminiscent about myself, did you? Well, the town 
square is just over the street...let me just get my hat; it's a bit too 
warm for my head today. 

Can you see up there to that third branch above the big knot on the left
side? The 

branch with a little bump on it? I swear, we scraped and cut our arms
and legs on that thing so very many times...seems I was always bleedin' 
from one limb or another, my mama forever remarkin' on how I was gonna 

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