I became acquainted with the old bur oak tree near downtown Lexington, Kentucky, not as a child, but as a very young adult. It was something of a Lexington landmark and I think it deserves a story. Its own place in history. No doubt, according to the tree specialists, it had at least a couple of centuries of stories to tell since Lexington was settled in June of 1775 and this ancient tree was at least that old.
The bur oak was located right off Lafayette Parkway leading up to Lafayette High School. Barely out of our teens, my husband and I were hunting for our first house and our realtor showed us a rather decrepit small home with this magnificent tree in the backyard. I don’t know if we bought the house because of the house or because of the tree. It was astonishing. Spreading my arms as wide as I could, I still could not embrace its diameter.
I don’t know how tall it was but it was too tall for tree specialists to even contemplate taking it down back in the 1970s. Bur oaks often grow 200-300 feet tall. It was many feet in circumference. It shaded our entire home in the summer with its big, brawny limbs. Every other fall, it produced the most interesting acorns and gallons of them. These trees produce the largest acorns of any oak tree and they often were the preferred food for bears, harkening back to another time in the history of the place where Lexington began.
Besides enjoying the fact that this special tree was in our newly-acquired back yard, it provided a conversation starting point with our neighbors on the aptly-named Lone Oak Street. Our neighbors were a couple old enough to be our grandparents and well-known Lexington residents, Fred and Lois Flege. We bonded over that tree. They took to us and we to them and they became like our family.
We lived on that street and under that tree, with the Flege’s as our neighbors, for many years. The tree developed dead limbs that we had to prune but we could bear to do no more than that. It was an important touchstone for us and for the Flege’s.
Shortly after we sold our house, the new owner took down the big tree. It had become dangerous. That tree will forever be a part of our memories of our early life in Lexington with our beloved neighbors, the Flege’s.
Years later, I moved to the town where I taught at the university and one day, I found a bur oak acorn in my front yard. There are no bur oak trees that I know of in this part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. I planted it. Maybe someday, long after I am gone, there will be another majestic bur oak tree in what used to be my yard. One of our best memories will always be the big bur oak tree standing in the middle of Lexington. #amwriting #amblogging #writing