“You’re a puny thing,” said the Mighty Oak, staring down at the newcomer to his yard. “You’ve no growth and you’re only five feet tall.”
The sapling hung his head, respectful in the presence of such a large and magnificent specimen of his kind. The oak towered above the neighborhood, soaring higher than many of the roofs of the nearby houses. He, on the other hand, was thin and had only a weary cluster of pale green leaves. He was so frail he was tied in place for fear he might topple over onto the grass.
“Harumph,” said the Mighty Oak and turned his leaves.
From that day, all through autumn, he ignored the poor sapling even when the lad had a question.
“Are the winters bad here?” asked the sapling one day. He was a little concerned since he didn’t have the hardy bark of the Mighty Oak to shield him from the worst of the snow.
No answer came from the Mighty Oak.
Nor did the Mighty Oak answer when the sapling asked, “Do the winters last long?”
When the seasons changed he shivered through the wintry blasts and the cold that nearly froze his roots. But his pride kept him silent, especially when a mound of snow, having accumulated on the Mighty Oak’s branches, tumbled on him, nearly burying him in the drift.
He heard a snicker of laughter and pretended he was not affected in the least.
Gradually, winter faded. The snow melted and the frigid air was replaced by warm breezes.
The Mighty Oak still didn’t speak to the sapling, however. The sapling was used to the silence from the older tree by now. Instead, he listened for the sounds of the birds, the chirping of crickets, and the kind and soothing words from the lady who had planted him in this spot.
One day at the beginning of summer the skies darkened. The air grew heated yet still. Overhead the clouds blackened, hovering over the land. Even the Mighty Oak fell silent in the face of the oncoming storm.
A great wind began to blow, tossing shingles from the roofs. The poor rose bushes were emptied of all their blooms in seconds. The birdbath crashed to the grass and shattered. The bird houses blew away. Even the fence closest to the sapling bowed, their nails shrieking as they were pried from the boards by the strength of the wind.
The sapling felt himself pushed to the ground, his leaves forced against the grass surrounding him. His whole body bent and shivered, pressed there for so long he felt he would never be able to rise.
Above him he heard the splinter of wood, the horrible sounds of branches being torn away. The Mighty Oak bellowed in pain before his cry was silenced by an even more frightening sound as the earth buckled.
The sapling wished he could turn and see but he was forced to remain as he was.
Long moments later the wind moved away and the sapling could spring back into position again. Turning, he saw the Mighty Oak with his roots exposed. His majestic head dress of branches was depleted. His bark had been shorn from his body. He lay half on and off the roof of the house sheltering the lady who had planted the sapling.
In the next few days there was much clamor in the neighborhood as people, having emerged from their houses, realized how much work had to be done. The Mighty Oak was one of the first of the tragedies and he was removed carefully from the roof of the house.
The sapling tried not to eavesdrop but he could hardly help overhearing all the comments.
“What a pity to lose such a beautiful tree.”
“We’ll use him for firewood.”
“I’m so glad it wasn’t worse.”
Even though the Mighty Oak had never spoken to the sapling other than that first insult, the sapling found himself very lonely in the next weeks.
One day, however, he happened to look where the Mighty Oak had always stood. To his surprise green shoots were coming out of the ground. He watched and he waited over the next months, wondering if the lady would notice. Or would she cut them back once she realized what they were?
To his utter delight, the lady did notice and exclaimed, “Look, the tree is coming back. Look at all these little saplings!”
Over the next months he watched as they grew larger. Finally, the largest of the saplings looked in his direction and said, “Hello.”
Startled, the sapling replied, “Hello.”
“You’re very handsome,” said the young sapling.
“Oh, yes. You have a crown of deep green leaves and you look very sturdy.”
He hadn’t been paying any attention but he had grown in the last year. He wasn’t anything like the Mighty Oak, of course, but he decided he must look very good to the youngsters.
“Is the winter very bad?” the young sapling asked.
He smiled. “Let me tell you about last winter,” he said and proceeded to share his knowledge.
There were those who walked the neighborhood from time to time, remarking on the changes since the tornado. How things looked refreshed and renewed and wasn’t that a blessing? Some people stopped at the new fence and noticed how tall the sapling had grown. One day he would be as magnificent as the oak that was toppled on that fateful day. Some remarked about how all of the lady’s trees seemed happy and content and the roses were growing again in the garden.
The moral of this story: it is easier to bend than to break.
Second moral: you never know where your friends will come from.
Third moral: one man’s oak is another man’s sapling.
(Why this story? I was sitting at the computer and just started typing. LOL.)