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"That Ol Tree"

I was out ridin' a few days ago in the high country 
lookin' for strays. I happened to notice an old pine 
tree out there on a bare hill slope. 
Now I have seen this tree many times and not paid 
any attention to it in the past, but that day 
something made me take a second look.
That old tree was about the sorriest lookin'thing 
you would ever want to see, but something about it 
drew me closer. 
The more I looked at it, the more it reminded me 
of something. I sat there and looked at it for a 
while and you know what? 
That dang tree reminded me of....Me!! 
Now you got to understand how a tree like this 
comes about. That tree is a Ponderosa pine. 
They grow tall and handsome and full and are a 
true sight to see. 
You see this tree is growin' at about 8600 feet 
in elevation in about a harsh an environment as 
you can find in Wyoming. 
The wind blows up there constantly, and in the 
winter the snow can get to 6 feet deep and stay 
all season long. 
That tree started as a pine cone being blown 
across that barren slope when it fell into a 
crack in a big old granite rock. There was just 
barely enough soil for a seed to sprout,but that 
is all it took, and that tree was on its way. 
The day that tree first sprouted, it said to 
itself, "Well, this ain't much of a place, but it 
looks like this is where I'm gonna be. Just watch 
me world, I am gonna grow and be special and maybe 
if I am lucky, someday someone will choose me to 
take to their home and be their Christmas tree."
How that tree survived is a complete mystery to me.
You can see what would have been the tall and 
slender trunk froze to death but the tree continued 
to grow from side branches. There are no branches 
on its lower trunks.
That is because during the nights, that snow turned 
into ice and compacted and settled and tore the 
young branches off. 
Something in that tree just wouldn't quit. 
Each spring that tree would stand itself back up as 
the ice melted away and a few buds at the top would 
open and it would grow a few more inches. Finally,
after about a hundred years, it managed to get a 
few branches that survived because they were higher 
than the snow. 
Now that tree's cousins down in the protected 
valleys grew round and beautiful and tall, but up 
there on that hill in the brutal winters and the 
roaring winds that ol' tree didn't have much chance. 
I guess that is what made me stop that day.
Now don't think I'm complainin’, cause I shore ain't. 
I just got to thinkin' how I came to be born out 
here in Wyoming on a ranch in the wide open spaces 
and the howling wind. I didn't get to pick the place, 
I just growed up here, and I reckon this is where 
I'll stick. I've gotten used to howling winters and 
hot dry summers and they don't even bother me. 
I look at that ol’ tree, and all its bends and 
twists, and it reminds me of broken bones, and aches 
and pains too numerous to mention. That tree is bent 
and grotesque, and no resemblance to its cousins in 
more sheltered places. 
Then I take a look at me. I got a beard to cover 
scars on my face. I got a pot belly and hitch in 
my gitalong, and it's clear I'll never be a movie 
star or President of this country. 
The longer I looked at it the more I realized lots
of us shore got a lot in common with that ol’ tree. 
We're bent and battered, worse for wear, but all of 
us is still standin' out there in that harsh wind. 
In spite all that life has dealt us, 
we can still stand tall and tough and proud. 
See ya down the trail!

Chip Harding

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