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Once there was a tree, and the tree loved a little boy. And, every day the boy would come and he would gather the leaves, make them into crowns, play king of the forest, climb the tree’s trunk, swing from the branches and eat apples. They would play hide and seek, and when he was tired, he’d sleep in the tree’s shade. The boy loved the tree very much.”

Those are words written by an author named Shel Silverstein forty-four years ago. He never had any idea that he would write a children’s book that remains among the most popular of all time. But those are the things of children, and the things of children must be put away as adulthood approaches. Or do they?

In Lake Geneva, that’s being done for the children and adults, as the trees up and down Main Street and Broad were first cut, and then the roots dug up for replacement. The trees never had a chance to reach maturity and were never considered for transplant to a place with more consideration for life, like the city’s cemetery. Lake Geneva has a tree board and an arborist. Those entities work under the auspices and authority of the street department.

So, what happened to the trees? Well, the ancient Masonic question asked of all incoming candidates for the third degree remains just as cogent, in this case, as it is for these applicants: “In whom do you place your trust?” The reasons for the removal of the trees have been listed over a short period of time, and the public might want to be taken back to when all the great old trees at BigFoot Park were removed.

First it was disease. The park tried that explanation until the cut wood was examined and there were no infestations or disease symptoms found at all. That was the first reason given for the street trees. The second reason came quickly for the street trees, when the first reason was not swallowed whole. The trees had supposedly outgrown their metal grates, and the raised-up grates were a danger to pedestrians. But the grates could have been changed or removed. That excuse disappeared. The final excuse is olfactory. Some of the Ginko trees, that had been selected years ago, were female, by mistake. Those female plants bear fruit that falls and is obnoxious to the nose of humans. You see, there were tons of written complaints from both merchants and customers.

That poppycock is never going to work! The original people who selected the first trees are still working, and were chosen to select the new flowering pear trees to replace the great old healthy Ginkos. And what of Christmas? The new trees are too small to be able to support the winding of little white lights that have been so beautiful during the holiday season up and down Lake Geneva streets at night. The answer to why this season was chosen is; because late fall is planting season.

Really? You can’t plant trees in the spring? Where do these non-farm-experienced concepts come from in farm country? The best time to plant trees is in the spring. But facts don’t seem to matter much today. Where are these new trees from? How much did they cost? Who is getting the money? How much is the profit? Whose brother-in-law is involved with this new arboreal lunacy? There was no notice to the public of this apparent disservice to the community? Has beauty and ambiance lost all meaning in these times? Why did the trees have to die? And why should not their death presage a bit of the public’s own, at least in heart in Lake Geneva. These sad tree-cutting days come just as the holidays begin.

The winter is cold in Southern Wisconsin, but the people used to be warm of heart. Where are the little boys loving the trees, and what happened to the adults that cared enough to support them? Why is it that the small staff of a tiny Midwestern newspaper, of little consequence, is the only one to mourn the tree’s passing?


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