My Dandy-Lion Pine Tree

Angel Oak – Johns Island, South Carolina

Just outside Charleston, S.C., you’ll come across a mystical tree called the Angel Oak. It’s a massive growth with dozens of meandering branches, some almost 200 feet long, others big enough to stand on. The Angel Oak has survived for centuries despite hurricanes and ever-encroaching urban development. It’s named after the settlers of a nearby plantation but you’d swear it has more to do with a supernatural being. When you stand within the calm and quiet of the Angel Oak’s wing-like branches, you can feel the embrace of a higher power.  You might as well be in church.

I have a similar tree in my front pasture, here in Colorado.  It’s a singular, lonely, rather sad-looking pine, about seven feet tall, standing sentry beside a swale running through the property.  My pine has very few branches, and on those, very little growth.  I could accurately describe the profile of this tree as a Tootsie Pop, or perhaps one of those ball-and-stick trees you see on architectural renderings.  I prefer a more organic comparison instead.  My tree reminds me of a dandelion, only with a very sturdy stem.  I’m tempted to puff up and blow on his modest ball of pine needles, but he looks so feeble I’m afraid they’ll actually take flight.

My pine tree is as cryptic as the Angel Oak is mystical.  There’s so much I can’t explain about him.  He was standing out there fifteen years ago when we moved to this property.  For all I know he was out there fifteen hundred years ago.  Despite our high-desert drought, winter blizzards, gusty winds, and other fill-in-the-blank weather events, my pine tree stands resolutely and takes it all without bending.  Never seems to grow, wither, or even lose those few pine needles.  In fact, he seems to be waiting for something – or maybe someone.  It’s a day-in-day-out mystery.

A tree, a horse, and an endless forest beyond

Five hundred yards to the east of my lone pine, we have a dense forest of trees that goes on for miles.  These pines stand so close together it’s a wonder they get enough sunlight to grow.  These tall timbers strike me as an army, standing silently at attention, ready to march forward with the given command.  Perhaps my pine is their evergreen general, ready to declare “CHARGE!!!” against some unseen foe to the west.

I don’t have to turn the clock back fifteen hundred years to come up with a logical explanation for my solitary tree.  Maybe just two hundred years ago, when there would already be no pasture, no horses, and not much of anything in any direction.  Settlers here and there at best, or pioneers in search of the promised land.  Perhaps one of these travelers lost a child at too young of an age.  Perhaps a tree was planted in memory of that child.  An angel-like pine carrying on in the sometimes harshest of conditions.

If I had any measure of courage, I’d get up in the wee hours of the night – no guiding light except for the inky blanket of stars overhead – and slowly, silently approach my pine tree.  In those bewitching hours, with the howls of coyotes in the distance and the soft rustle of grass beneath my feet, I might witness a presence from beyond.  Perhaps a subtle glow surrounding his branches, suggesting an endless lifeforce within his roots.  Or even better, the nightgown-clad ghost of a little girl sitting against his trunk, bare knees pulled to her chest.

I know my little tree is no Angel Oak.  In a forest of Ponderosa and Douglas Fir, my pine would be first choice for a Charlie Brown Christmas.  Yet there he is, steadfast and strong, the king of the jungle pasture, the unchallenged ruler of his domain.  He must have the heart of a lion and a confident aura to match.  I hope someday he’ll reveal his purpose, but in the meantime one thing seems to be certain.  My dandy-lion pine will still be standing when I am not.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

13 thoughts on “My Dandy-Lion Pine Tree”

  1. Excellent message!
    We have a lot of spruce – I think my job, while we own this land, is to be the keeper of the forest. Each tree has a story to tell, right!?
    Looks like horse manure in the foreground of your tree photo – not so good for the tree when the manure is fresh… maybe what your pine really needs is an arborists advice…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Didn’t know that about horse manure, Margy. Sort of unavoidable with the number of four-legged friends we have in that pasture – ha. I’m content to leave my pine alone, come what may. We’re technically high-desert climate around here so it’s a wonder any trees survive. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this little one.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. One of these years I’ll chain together enough extension cords to put Christmas lights on my tree. I just hope he’s strong enough to support them!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave, I love that second last paragraph – very descriptive! It is peculiar it doesn’t seem to grow or change….maybe it was planted by extraterrestrials and can’t adapt to the soil here? I think you should camp out some night and check it out!

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  3. One night this summer, when it’s too hot to sleep, maybe I’ll take a stroll to the pasture. I’ll convince myself I’m going out there for a little stargazing but you and I will know better, won’t we? 🙂


  4. That was very interesting Dave. Even if you had not shared the picture, I had a picture of it in my mind as I was reading along. I’ve heard about the Angel Oak in South Carolina, but have never seen it. I have seen the storied Lone Cypress on the 17-Mile Drive in California. I have learned a new word from you in this post and the word is “swale” which I looked up, so now it’s my turn to thank you for broadening my horizons.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We think alike, Linda. The Lone Cypress came to mind as I was writing but I’ve never seen it in person. The Angel Oak seemed a more appropriate comparison for having visited it.


  6. I love “I’m still standing” stories. I’m not suppose to be here. I shouldn’t have survived being here. No one but me knows why I’m here. But I’m here. Love it and you told it well. cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So, is that road that runs near it The Trail of the Lonesome Pine? Or have I watched too many old movies? It is interesting that it doesn’t grow taller. Does this suggest that the roots are not that successful finding nutrients there? So many questions. I salute it no matter the answers.

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  8. I honestly can’t explain how this tree survives J P, hence the inspiration to write about it. I had to look up the movie you mention (Fred MacMurray – love that guy!). It’s quite the romantic name for my driveway – I may have to borrow it 🙂


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