A rare photo of the grand maple tree that once stood along the westerly side of the old Mabey Homestead. This photo was taken around 1989, from Mabey Lane.
The Old Grand Majestic Maple Tree
By Richard Mabey Jr.
Along the westerly side of the old Mabey Homestead, there stood this tall, majestic old maple tree. This incredible maple had to be well over one hundred years old. My grandfather, Watson Mabey, told me when I was about ten years old that he remembered climbing it when he was a young boy. My grandfather was born in 1893. So then at about 1903, when Grandpa was ten, the old maple tree then stood tall and proud!
Growing up at the old Mabey Homestead, my dad had put a picnic table and chairs beneath the old maple tree. It provided wonderful shade when we would eat our lunches and suppers outside, on weekends in the summer time. We would eat our hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, cole slaw and watermelon, while the blue jays and robins that nested in the old maple tree would serenade us, chirping away from the old maple’s limbs and branches.
During the summer of 1964, when I was ten years old, my dad and I began building a tree fort on the strong limbs of the old maple tree. It ended up being an incredibly elaborate three-tier tree fort that wasn’t completed until the summer of 1967. My good friend, Stu S., was a big help to me in building the two higher floorings of my old tree fort.
When I was ten years old, I fell from one of the limbs of the old majestic maple. Miraculously, I did not break any bones. I was bruised up quite a bit. I vowed that I would never climb the tree again. My dad was a very understanding and compassionate man. But, he was also quite tough. Those of you reading this essay, who were scouts of Boy Scout Troop 170 when my dad was Scoutmaster, no doubt know what I am talking about.
One day, Dad came home from work. He got out of his pickup truck and saw me moping at the picnic table, looking up at the splendor and wonder of the old majestic maple. I remember how Dad walked over to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said to me, “Richie, sooner or later you’re going to have to climb up that tree. You can’t let it defeat you. And, I think that time is now.”
While there was a certain understanding in Dad’s voice, I remember that there was also a kind of tough quality in his voice tone that day. Dad walked over to the thick manila rope that hung from the first tier, all the way down to a few feet from the ground. He handed me the rope and told me that he wanted to see me climb up to the first landing. I was scared.
Dad knew I was scared. But, Dad also knew that I wasn’t going to let my fear win out. I can remember, so very clearly, Dad saying to me, “I’ll be right here to catch you if you fall.”
So, I began the climb up the manila rope. I remember pulling myself over the edge of the wooden flooring of the old tree fort. I felt a certain surge of victory run through my veins. I remember Dad shouting up to me, “I knew you could do it!”
In 1995, a major wind storm swept through. The winds were so strong and so mighty that a big, major limb of the old maple fell to the earth. It was a sad moment in time. Dad and I painted the fresh wound of the old maple, with black paint to prevent any insect infestation.
In the next few years, more thick branches fell to the earth. The dear old maple was aging. I would paint black paint over the areas from where the limbs had broken off. But, my dear old maple tree was failing.
By the year 2000, it was evident that this dear old maple tree was dying. There was not much left of it. It was with sad regrets that around 2003, Dad and I cut down the little remaining trunk stem of the old maple. It was such a sad day. But, there were safety concerns.
My cousin, Wes, lived in the carriage house on the property. He would park his pickup truck beneath the old maple. There really was no other place for him to park his truck. Dad and I, both realized that it would only be a short time and the remains of the beloved maple tree would end up falling on Wes’s truck.
Life is tough. I loved that old maple tree. In many ways, it was an old friend. I know how sentimental this may sound, but I still think about that dear old maple tree. I still miss it very much.