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666: The Devil Tree

April 25, 2018

My husband and I moved into a new home in Grayslake in 1993. The subdivision was new, but it was built on the site of a former horse farm. 

The house we chose had a beautiful oak tree, it shaded the back of the house and the yard. An arborist had been called in to prune the roots so that the tree would continue to grow and thrive amid the new construction. The arborist told us the oak was probably close to 200 years old. The builder told us that if the tree survived the first 5 years it would last for many years. The tree was 10 feet from our back door. 

The day we closed on the house I walked around our yard, thrilled that we had a new home and this magnificent tree. I noticed a small metal tag nailed to the tree, it had a number on it. My heart sank as I read the numbers, 666. The first thing that popped into my head was, "Oh no, this is the devil tree."

Over the next 20 years we shared the seasons with our oak: Ample shade in the summer from the canopy of branches and leaves that spanned the entire back of the house. Home to a family of raccoons and numerous birds and squirrels in the summer. Leaves galore in the fall. Bare branches in the winter that made beautifully eerie shapes as the full moon shown down on the snow covered yard.

We built a sunroom and patio around the tree, always careful to make sure it had water and nutrients to allow for growth. Visitors to our home always commented on the size of the tree and I always acknowledged the fact that it was the devil tree and that it would probably fall on the house some day.

Our tree weathered every storm that came its way. But on Labor Day of 2013 we noticed a split in the main trunk and, after we called in a tree expert, they determined it could not be saved.

When it was cut down they found concrete inside the tree which had been placed there in an attempt to help save the tree many years before. The tree could not weather the injury it had sustained many years before we met.

It broke my heart to lose our tree, but I am thankful for the years of pleasure it provided to family and friends. I planted a Marmo Freeman's maple (Acer freemanii 'Marmo', named after Lake Marmo at The Morton Arboretum) in the yard because we got married in the rose garden at Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City, Nebraska (childhood home of Arboretum founder Joy Morton).

I wear an acorn necklace every day to remind me of where the mighty oak comes from.  

Oak tree in front of white house

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