It was purely by chance we discovered our favorite oak tree to be hollow.

We had summoned the tree guy to dispose of a pine tree that had succumbed to a spring storm. Returning from his inspection of the wooded part of our property, he assured us he could take care of it. “You have a much more serious issue, though,” he added. “That oak tree over there is almost completely hollow.” He couldn’t be sure it was going to fall on our house, but it was leaning that way. He recommended we remove it.

Hollow? The old tree’s trunk measured more than five feet in diameter. Its leafy branches, each gnarled in its own special way, gave witness to its untold years of existence. Scars on the trunk served as souvenirs of limbs that had been removed over time. A blanket of soft green moss gave it a cozy feel. It was exquisite. Don remembers it as one of the reasons he bought our lot more than thirty years ago. The squirrels considered it their own personal Six Flags. It was clearly alive. How could it be hollow?

“Are there elves in there making cookies?” I asked. Nobody laughed.

Trees are abundant where we live in east Texas, but they are nonetheless prized. If you want to stir up some wrath around here, clear-cut a lot and see what people post about you on Facebook. The trees in our yard are too numerous to count, but most of them are pine trees.

This oak stood out radiantly in its position on a slope near the rear corner of our house. Visible from the street, it definitely added curb appeal to the property. We had a hard time accepting the fact that it had to go.

After further research revealed that our house was indeed possibly in jeopardy, we gave the tree service permission to remove the beautiful old tree. Even though we understood it had to be done, we felt like we were betraying our old friend.

Four men arrived early the next morning. They brought three large pieces of equipment, including a crane, and worked until nightfall. They started removing the limbs from the top, gradually whittling the tree to its bare trunk and trimming it to a manageable height. When they finally felled what remained, they stopped working long enough to show me the inside of the trunk. There were no elves, but there was definitely space for a cookie oven. A member of the crew lowered himself into the hollow in the stump and disappeared. It was hard to believe the tree had been standing.

Large old trees are relatively rare around the Plano area. The land that eventually became Plano started out as grassland where buffalo grazed and wildfires were common. Early settlers found the relatively treeless setting ideal for growing crops and grazing livestock. Trees thrived in the creek floodplains, though, nourished by the sediment-rich soil and abundance of water. Some of Plano’s most beautiful backyards can be found along the many creeks that wind their way through the city.

Plano does boast a Metroplex Champion Tree, so designated by the Texas Tree Trails organization. The Haggard Park overcup oak measures 106 inches in circumference and towers 45 feet above the ground. Its crown spread is 55 feet. That’s a lot of shade for park visitors.

We bought our first house in Plano in 1977 and planted two red oaks in the front yard, but didn’t stay there long enough to see them mature. I drove by the other day to find a couple of pretty respectable trees shading the house. I felt good about our long-ago efforts and the beauty they finally produced. They say you don’t plant a tree for yourself, but for posterity.

Hug a tree and have a fabulous July.

Patsy Morris

Patsy Morriss is the former associate publisher of Plano Profile magazine. She holds a BFA in journalism from Southern Methodist University and is a graduate of Leadership Plano. A past president of...