Giant twins (Gortner) page 5
these monarchs of the forest, when autumn approaches, light up their own funeral pyres with a breath-taking splendor.
When Peter Gortner first looked upon this imposing object it was already a large tree. Some of the inhabitants of the forest had left, never to return. The Indians camped beside it, mother pointed out, and the elk, bear and buffalo browsed nearby while a panther was hidden among its branches ready to make a spring. Deer and wild turkeys foraged for acorns around its base, and often turkeys and passenger pigeons would roost in its branches at night. It was the home of raccoons, colonies of squirrels, wood-duck and tree frogs. Around its base lived the tiny black mole and the chipmunk. Also one could find the Russula Virescens, a large green-capped mushroom, a very edible one, which thrives in the soil around white oaks. In the Spring trilliums and violets could be seen coming up through the leaves of last Autumn. And when the writer thinks of all the feathered tribes that flitted from branch to branch, and nested from year to year in the Giant Oak it stands out as an enshrinement of all this varied life—in its lonely dignity.
For years the sudden dark-skied storms with their resounding thunder and long streaks of blinding light had a special attraction for the Giant Oak. The god of the storm evidently was envious of its proud independence, its success in surviving the adversities of nature and the avarice of man. From year to year the lightning would strike near it with such fury that at long last it capitulated. The lightning had ripped at its sides so many times that the sap could no longer run its course. And there it stood gaunt, like the obelisk of Heliopolis, with the record of its struggle imprinted on its bole.
The last time the writer saw it standing, just a skeleton, was in June 1946. It stood out bleakly yet proudly alone and forsaken. Even though stripped of its foliage it was a giant that could stand firm on its own feet. Even in death it stood as the most prominent object for miles around. It was two hundred seventy-six years old, according to the number of growth circles. When he visited it again in 1962, just a little over a century from the arrival of Peter Gortner, it was lying prone.
It now has fallen into dust. Yet how much we would like to know what transpired in and around it during its span of life. If only there had been an instrument to have left a record of it for posterity.
THE LIBERTY TREE
The famous Liberty Tree in front of Woodward Hall on the campus of St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland has important historical associations. In 1781 the Marquis de Lafayette with his French army marched by it on their way to Yorktown. On his triumphal tour of America in 1824 he stopped at St. John's and made a special point to visit
Rev. J. C. Breuninger
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland
22 x 15 cms
Editor: Felix G. Robinson
Western Maryland, 1750-1963