Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
I have had an extraordinary week of walks, including great weather and two coup stick touches on armadillos! The big excitement came in the county conservation area near Fishhawk Creek. I was following a fresh trail of feral hog snufflings, hoping it might lead to an un-rooted bed of truffles, when I happened into the shade of a massive oak. Seemed like a good place to relax and take a drink, so, I sat and leaned against the bark and rested.
I wasn’t long until I felt something scratch along my back. This is dangerous- critter country and one learns to move quickly in this wild. I tucked, rolled and jumped to a defensive position, my trusty razor-edged Buck knife in hand, only to find nothing. Then a rough, ultra-bass voice, “How would you like it if everyone took advantage of the shade you provide, without offering anything in return?”
I pivoted all directions. Nothing.
The only thing there was the tree, the granddaddy of all trees in the area. I eased back, keeping my eye on the oak. There are homeless people living in the woods, at times, and I thought I was being pranked. “Did you just talk to me?”
“Who else is around, numbskull?”
I darted to the left to check the other side of the tree, expecting to catch someone. Again, nothing but the tree. Then, there was a sudden storm of acorns, hundreds falling on and around me. It was not dangerous or painful, just strange. Could it be? I lived in Wichita once, as a young boy, so, I was not in Kansas anymore!
“Tree?” Asks a meek me.
“Who else?” Says he.
So, I won’t go into all the words and details, but we engaged in lengthy conversation and it happens that the tree played a small roll in The Wizard of Oz. He is still bitter about events and shared his story for the first time. The arborists who provided the trees to the studio failed to reveal that the oaks would be playing the part of apple trees. It wasn’t until after rehearsals, in which the trees threw acorns at the characters, that apples were tied to their branches. Those that refused to pluck and heave the apples were placed in the background, or hauled to the back lot by forklifts, where they burned, from the heat radiating off the asphalt onto their root balls, and died.
During the first shooting the tree said one of the apples he tossed plunked the head of the Mayor of Munchkin Land. That created an outrage in the little people ranks and they began peeing on the oak’s root system.
“I nearly got cirrhosis of the bark,” he lamented. “The main characters were great to work with, but those Munchkins were a vile bunch.”
The trees received no sunlight and very little water during the filming, the director being worried about the cost of moving them outdoors on a daily basis and about actors slipping on wet spots along the yellow brick road. “There was an horrific mistreatment of arboreal life!” The oak choked up a bit at the memory of the difficult time.