Treesa the Tree
By Rhonda Frankhouser

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     One day little Wendy Wickam went for a walk in the woods.  She hiked along the beautiful trail, listening to the chirp of the birds and watching the squirrels at play. The rock-lined stream gurgled as it ran steadily down the hill toward the lake at the foot of the mountain. Wendy stopped to pick a handful of the wild orange poppies when she heard a knocking sound coming from behind a huge oak tree next to the path in front of her. It was her twin brother Willie, playing carpenter again, hammering a nail into the trunk of the tree.

     “Stop that, Willie,” Wendy shouted. “Didn’t Grandma tell you to stop hammering nails where they don’t belong? That tree is a living thing. It never did anything to you!” Wendy’s loud voice quieted the animals around them.

     “Oh, hush up, Wendy. This tree can’t feel anything.” The mischievous grin on Willie’s face frustrated Wendy.

     “Excuse me, young man, but yes I can feel pain.” The old oak swayed and showered brilliant green leaves over Wendy and Willie as they stood beneath her watching in disbelief. “I can quite distinctly feel that nail you drove in my side! Now pull it out this instant, young man!” 

   Both Wendy and Willie stared in shock at the tree as a kind, elderly face began to appear on its old trunk. First its dark eyes widened in a sweet expression, tiny slivers of bark framing them like eyelashes. Then a huge mouth formed from the knot hole below, grinning with huge, wooden teeth at the two frightened youngsters.

     “You mustn’t be afraid of old Treesa Oak. I’m as harmless as they come. I’d appreciate it greatly, though, if you’d remove that nail though. It’s paining me so,” her eyes cut sideways to the spot where the nail stuck out of her trunk.

     “Come on now, Give it a yank. I’ll be good as new in no time.” 

Wendy nudged Willie toward the tree, urging him to remove the nail quickly. Instead Willie dropped the hammer and scampered behind a rock, his teeth clattering in his head from fear.

     “Oh, I’ll do it,” Wendy huffed. “I’m not afraid of some old talking tree.” Wendy scooped up the hammer and shuffled around the other side of the old oak tree to view the damage. With one quick movement, she removed the nail and placed it in her pocket.

     “Thank you, my dear,” breathed Treesa the Tree as she wriggled the bark where the nail had been. “That feels much better.”

     “Treesa? Is that your name?” Wendy asked as she placed her finger over the nail hole, trying to soothe what pain the old oak might feel.

     “Yes, yes that’s my name. Treesa Oak,” she answered, flashing her big, thankful, splintered smile.

     “Well, I think Treesa is a very pretty name.” Wendy came back around to face her as she spoke.

     “My name is Wendy Wickam and that cowardly boy hiding behind the rock is my twin brother Willie. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Wendy bowed in front of the huge oak, sweeping her hand in front of her in a respectful curtsey.

      “The pleasure is all mine, my dear. Especially now that you’ve removed that blasted nail.” Treesa smiled at Wendy once again.

      “Treesa, do you ever get lonely out here with no one to talk to?” Wendy’s questioning expression brought a huge chuckle from Treesa’s mouth.

      “Oh, my dear, I have lots of friends to talk to in the woods. There’s my friends Cindy Cedar and Polly Pine. And we can’t forget all the little animals who come out and play on our brances. We talk together all the time.” 

Willie stirred from behind the rock and watched as Wendy talked with the huge oak tree named Treesa.

      “That’s not true, Wendy. Trees can’t talk. Someone’s tricking us!” Willie’s voice echoed across the hills and again quieted the animals.

      “How do you explain this then?” Wendy asked, rubbing the rough bark on Treesa side. “You can plainly see she’s talking to me. I know you can hear her.” Wendy turned to her brother and gave him a frown.

     “Thank you, my dear. I appreciate you sticking up for me, but ‘ol Treesa can take care of herself.” Treesa swayed her limbs around her as if to beckon the wind. “Cindy Cedar, Polly Pine, wake up! We have a skeptic in our midst.” Treesa’s huge, leaf-covered limbs brushed gently against the needles of the two tall, thin trees next to her.

     Suddenly Cindy Cedar and Polly Pine awoke with a start.

     “What, what is going on Treesa? Why are you waking us up in the middle of the day?” Polly Pine moved her slender, prickly limbs skyward, stretching after a long nap. Her eyes were a bit smaller than Treesa, but just as pretty and kind. 

     “This better be good,” quipped Cindy Cedar, not at all happy about being awakened from her slumber. “Why are these children here? And why are you talking to them? You know we’re not supposed to talk to the humans?” Cindy admonished her friend. Her grouchy eyes darted from Wendy to Willie then back to Treesa Oak.

     “Oh, Cindy. Relax! We’re just having a little chat. The young man here doesn’t believe that trees can feel pain or speak, so I thought I would introduce him to you. You should be nicer to our guests! Now, you be neighborly and say hello to Wendy and Willie Wickam.” Treesa continued, nudging Cindy with a swat of her leaves against Cindy’s sturdy trunk.

     A reluctant smile crossed Cindy Cedar’s long, thin face as she bowed to her guests. Dew showered over Wendy and Willie from Cindy’s damp needles. “Welcome to the woods children. Now, beat it. I’m in no mood. I need my beauty sleep.” Cindy’s huge eyes closed tightly as she drew her limbs in close to her trunk. And just like that, she was off to sleep again.

     “I’m sorry about Cindy. She can be fussy at times. But now you see that trees are living, breathing and sometimes can even talk. Isn’t that right, Willie?” Treesa guided a small limb out toward Willie and waggled it just above his head. Teasing him.

     “Well, even if you can talk you aren’t human, so we don’t have to be nice to you if I don’t want to. Trees aren’t important.” Willie’s wicked little voice made Treesa the Oak begin to cry. Tiny droplets of sap dribbled down the front of her trunk.

     “Willie, don’t be so mean?” Wendy moved next to Treesa and wiped away the sticky tears. “You’ve hurt her feelings. Why would you say such a thing? Of course we have to be nice. Trees are one of the most important living things on earth.”

Wendy leaned close to Treesa Oak and whispered. “He didn’t mean it Treesa, of course, you’re important.” Wendy ran her hand gently across Treesa’s lowest branch trying to comfort her.

     “Without trees, we humans wouldn’t have houses or paper or furniture or anything. Trees help to keep the air clean for us to breath and the hills beautiful for us to enjoy. They filter out pollution and give us oxygen. Willie just doesn’t understand all the amazing things you do, Treesa. He doesn’t understand we couldn’t live without you.” 

Willie sat a few feet away, perched upon a rock, watching Wendy as she spoke to the old oak tree. “Wendy, we better go before Grandma misses us. Just wait ‘til I tell her you’ve been talking to trees.” Willie jumped down and headed up the hill when a huge rush of water crested the top of the stream.

     “Wendy, look out! A flood is coming!” Willie jumped back onto the rock as Treesa bowed her lowest branches so Wendy could climb on.

     “Willie,” screamed Treesa, “...jump to me. Climb on my limbs so that I can hold you up above the water!” Willie looked over at Wendy in the safe arms of Treesa Oak and cringed. The water rushed closer to him from the top of the mountain, threatening to sweep him away. 

     “Jump, Willie!” Wendy yelled. “Hurry before the water gets any closer. Hurry!” Willie shook and shivered. He was too frightened to move from the rock.

     Treesa Oak curved a huge high branch down close to where Willie stood paralyzed. “Just grab on son, I’ll take care of the rest!” Treesa coaxed him to grip tightly to her branch.

With a gentle whoosh, Willie swung safely into Treesa’s branches with Wendy.

     “Now, children, I want you both to listen to me very carefully. You must hold on to me no matter what happens. The water is too high. Hang on tight!” Treesa began to rock and pull against the ground where her roots were deeply buried, trying to bend her sturdy trunk. With each sway Treesa reshaped her massive body, bringing it closer to the high ground across the ravine.

     “Treesa, what are you doing?” Polly Pine’s voice echoed loud against the thunder of the raging water. “You stop that right now!”

     Polly Pine swished her mighty, slender branches hard against Cindy Cedar’s sleeping bark. “Wake up, you old crank.  Treesa is doing something stupid!” Polly was frantic with worry.

     “Treesa Oak, stand tall! We’ve lived through these floods before. These children should know better than to be in the woods alone!” Cindy Cedar shook her trunk and dropped sharp, prickly needles onto Treesa’s soft velvety leaves, trying to get her attention.

     But Treesa kept rocking.

     “What’s she trying to do, Wendy?” Willie screamed at his sister, holding on with all of his might. “Is she trying to knock us into the water?”

     “No, Willie. She’s trying to save us.” Wendy held tight to the branch of her newfound friend, a tiny tear of concern fell from her eye.

     “Treesa,” Wendy whispered, “...trees are indeed, very important.” Just as the words escaped Wendy’s mouth, Treesa’s high branches touched down gently to the high ground across the ravine.

     “Go,” came a quiet whisper from Treesa’s sweet face.  “Climb up to the top of my branches and escape across the ravine. You will be safe from the water up there. You must hurry!” Treesa’s voice was weak and quiet.

Wendy and Willie scampered quickly up to the safety at the top of Treesa’s branches and jumped to the ground, escaping the raging waters below. Wendy stopped at the top to stroke the leaves, thanking Treesa for her help. A moment later Treesa snapped back and stood strong and tall once again, her wide, bark smile stretched sweetly across her trunk. 

     “Thank you for saving us, Treesa. I’ll never forget you,” shouted Wendy from across the ravine. 

     “Trees really are important. I can see that now.” Willie yelled. “Trees save lives. I’m sorry about the nail. It’ll never happen again, I promise!” Willie’s voice came to Treesa on the wind. She was thankful that Willie had learned a valuable lesson today, and that both Wendy and Willie were safe. 

     Treesa swayed her mighty limbs from side to side, waving goodbye to her new friends. Today was a day none of them would soon forget.