Tropical Storm Beryl came our way huffing and puffing and raining all over us on St. Simons Island. Whipping up the surf and dropping multi-inches of water on our island abode, Beryl left his calling card. Flood watches and warnings abounded. Although no order for evacuation was given, there were anxious moments.
The deluge of rain soaked the island soil making it soft and boggy in places. We were grateful for the rain on our yard because our grass had sorely suffered from the drought. Nevertheless, the rain came as a mixed blessing.
St. Simons is blessed with prolific foliage and trees; it resembles a jungle in spots (the only things missing are the monkeys). The trees vary in size from scrubby to giant Live Oaks. The island people cherish their trees. There is an ordinance on the island that no structure can be built higher than the tallest tree.
Oak trees are the insignia of the island, especially Live Oaks which are Georgia’s state tree. However, it is ironic that there is not a single oak tree in our yard.
There are, though, other kinds of trees on our lot—two giant Hackberry trees. The huge Hackberry trees on our property were among the largest trees on SSI. Beryl would have its effect on our Hackberry trees as well as our next door neighbor’s Hackberry tree. (Our next-door neighbor’s Hackberry tree will be in next week’s article.)
Our tree troubles began on Tuesday. B. J. and I were running some errands on the island. We were just leaving the Post Office parking lot when our car phone rang.
The caller on the other end of the wireless network was our dear friend and neighbor Charla (Edmundson) Mobley, the daughter of our longtime friend and nearby resident, Cardy Edmundson. She sounded somewhat excited.
We have been close friends for many years with the Edmundsons through happy times and bad. We have sort of become each other’s adopted family spending a good deal of time together. If there is a serious matter taking place in the family, Charla may call us before 911.
She did not tell us the reason for her call right at first. Then, trying to remain calm, she told us: “There’s a tree down in your yard; it’s the big one in front of your house but it didn’t fall on the house.”
I spurred Big Red through the congested island traffic as fast as I could and arrived at our place to discover red and blue lights from a police car that had blocked the street, Georgia Power trucks, emergency people and a reporter from the local newspaper. The rain-softened earth together with a decaying root system was unable to maintain the already leaning tree in an upright position; it toppled. The big tree was lying across the street and blocking traffic; it had brought power and TV cable lines down with it. The police officer wouldn’t let us in our house because “There are live electric wires down in your yard.”
Charla and Donna Edmundson were by our side to hug and console us in our calamity. Many neighbors stopped by to offer their assistance in our tree troubles. When the rain started back, Lyle and Betty Certain sat with us on their front porch and soothed us.
A controversy arose about what kind of tree it was. Since there are so many oaks on SSI, many people assumed that it was some kind of oak tree. I had my doubts because oak trees have acorns and there were no acorns (age and experience have taught me the futility of arguing with “experts”). Nonetheless, a big picture of the tree came out on the front page of the Brunswick News and the ensuing article called it a water oak. I knew better. Ron Simpson our sometimes neighbor across the street is a degree-holding biologist. He and his lovely wife Pat are world travelers. Ron came by and I asked him what kind of tree it was? Without hesitation, the credential-holding expert replied: “A Hackberry tree.”
Continuing research into the Hackberry tree revealed that they are sometimes called Ironwood trees because their wood is so hard. They were imported here from Africa many years ago to be grown and used in construction. Some “Ironwood” timber may have been used in the Construction of the U. S. S. Constitution hence the name “Old Ironsides.”
The cleanup was soon under way but it would be Friday before we would get our TV back.