Old maple tree is now a memory

Jerry Apps
The clean-up crew for the old maple includes from left, Steve, Sue, Paul and Jerry's brother Don in front.

In 1912, the Coombes family, who owned Roshara before us, built new farm buildings across the township road from where they were originally. They planted a windbreak of black willow trees and at the north end of the windbreak, they planted a maple tree.

When we bought the farm in 1966, the maple tree was more than 50 years old, and a nice shade tree. The tree had four trunks, each growing from ground level from the same root system. As the years passed, one of the trunks grew considerably larger than the other three. By 2020, this trunk was probably 30 inches in diameter and 80 or more feet tall. But rather than grow straight up, each year it grew a bit more at an angle.

To make matters worse, it was leaning over one of my machine sheds. My brother Darrel, each time he visited me at the farm said, “Jerry, that old maple is gonna fall on your shed. And no telling how much damage it will do.”

Darrel was right. It was only a matter of time—a stiff wind, an ice storm, and down it would go. So, I hired Gabe’s, a tree company from Wild Rose to cut it down, all four trunks.

On a cool Saturday, my clean up crew hauled away the brush and began piling the blocks, which we will split for firewood. It was a sad and happy day.  Sad, because my family spent many hours in the shade of that big old maple.  Happy—my machine shed is spared.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: A shade tree can be like an old friend.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to