The Last Windrow: Answer the plea to volunteer in your community
Columnist John Wetrosky talks about a long-ago volunteer tree-planting project
It was about this time of year up here in the north country when my local Lions club's annual tree planting fundraiser took place. Do you know how many trees amount to 432,000?
I've noticed lately that there are a lot of invitations in the newspapers and over the internet asking folks to volunteer for certain organizations. It seems that many of these community benevolent groups have hit a dry patch when it comes to getting someone to cook pancakes or help with road cleanup projects.
My thought is that we've about run out of the World War II Greatest Generation folks. Some of us coming after those folks have declared retirement, and the needs of the organizations we supported are not being met with the same enthusiasm as in previous times.
Wars are terrible things, but one thing they do is create the necessity for "getting along" and working with each other.
In any event, my local Lions club in its infancy decided that a way to create funds without having to serve pancakes or hold raffles was to plant trees. I was on the committee that led the charge and it was with great enthusiasm that we placed a bid for our first tree-planting project.
Our bid of 6 cents per tree planted was accepted by a local landowner, and on a bright Saturday morning, 30,000 Norway pine seedlings were delivered to the site. I and the committee eyed the multiple boxes with some anxiety on our faces. That looked like a lot of trees.
Members and their families, including kids, showed up on time and the crowd tore off across the open field with high spirits and throbbing energy. The trees were hand-planted with one person stabbing the spade into the earth and the other person bending over to place the seedling in its space.
I especially envied those who had kids who were closer to the ground. The kids had back muscles that had not yet been expended unlike some of the older of us.
My wife was my partner and at our mid-30s age we motored right along across the field. That was the first day of what turned out to be a four-day project.
By the second day we were a bit more stiff and by the forth day our joints were calling 911. I saw that our crew was dwindling with each passing day and only hoped that the 30-acre field would be filled with 30,000 trees and the check would be in the mail.
It was and it was.
The club continued that fundraiser for many years after and in the end, over 432,000 Norway pine, jack pine, spruce and tamarack seedlings were planted in and around our community. Most of them survived and today some now stand 40 feet over the forest floor.
The committee has aged out of the tree-planting experience. Most of us now have spare parts embedded in our frames and bending over is a challenge. Our tree spades have been retired.
I only write about this one effort because I saw the labor involved in that volunteer task and it really did bring the club closer together because we were all committed to a cause and no one wanted to try and do the job alone.
I think of that project when I see all of the pleas for volunteers we see posted today. We can only hope some will answer the call.
Tree planting was work, but we didn't have to sell raffle tickets. That's something worth thinking about.
See you next time. Okay?