Hosford, Florida, has a Dollar General store.  

That’s not unusual, I suppose, since anymore most every little town in the United States has one or more.  This one, though–the one in Hosford–brought a smile to my face like no other Dollar General has ever done.

We weren’t planning to stop in Hosford on our way to the Gulf Coast, but according to the ‘net, it was our last chance to pick up the gallon of milk needed to replace the one that didn’t fit in our cooler as we packed it that morning.  So, Hosford it was.

As is my habit when I can, I opted to sit in the car with the grandkids while their mother, along with my wife, went into the store.  The kids were chattering in the back of the van, and I was enjoying the sound and just hanging out some eight feet in front of their carseats.

I’d examined the wall ahead of me already, and found it to be wholly unremarkable.  From where I sat, I could see the ice cooler wasn’t locked, but that probably wasn’t unusual in a town this size.  Beyond the cooler, though, the store didn’t offer a lot to look at.  My eyes wandered to the vacant lot beside the store, and from there to the vacant lot just behind that one.

And then I smiled.  Big.

The lot closest to me had been mowed sometime in the last few months, but the one further away had trees and shrubs within their first few years of life, nothing more than 10 feet tall.

My smile didn’t come immediately, because it took my brain a few seconds to process what I was seeing.  Pines, again, not more than 10 feet high.  But they were dense, the individual trees were.  Each tree had three or four branches reaching skyward, and they were thick with lush green needles.  Lush, long, green needles.  Long, green needles.

Longleaf pine needles.  The reason for my smile.

I’d lived in Alabama for a few years before I became aware of the longleaf pine and its history.  The tree, native to the southeastern coasts of the United States, both the Atlantic and the Gulf, was once abundantly spread through the region.  Found up to a few hundred miles inland, spread from Virginia to Texas, the longleaf ecosystem was primary in the coastal areas of the region, until it wasn’t.  

Since the earliest days of European colonization of the continent, the longleaf pine was logged for its lumber as well as tar, pitch, and turpentine.  The long, straight trees were first prized for their nautical uses: masts and the pitch used to make hulls watertight as well as others.

Originally covering nearly 100 million acres, the natural resource was  considered inexhaustible, again, until it wasn’t.  Now, less than one one-hundredth of a percent of the original range can be considered old growth, and just around one percent of the original range has stands of the trees at all, with much of that planted and managed.

But not that vacant lot near the Dollar General in Hosford, Florida.  Seeds for those trees arrived without a plan other than nature’s.  Those trees, growing in a gravel lot, will probably never see maturity, but their presence is still enough to warrant a smile.

Check it out!


8 thoughts on “Longleaf”

  1. This post made me smile. There is something so reassuring in the indefatigable persistence of Nature. Regardless of all that has happened this year, Nature is doing her best to continue on around us, and despite us. As Henry David Thoreau said, “I have great faith in a seed.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I have great faith in a seed.” I love that. Nature is hanging in there, and I don’t doubt she’ll be okay when all is said and done. I’m reading a book right now (David Haskell’s *The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors) that has me once again pondering the connectedness of all life. We as humans aren’t doing ourselves a lot of favors, and the damage we’re doing to the Earth is coming back to bite us, I’m afraid.


  2. One of my goals this semester is to teach my seniors multi-genre writing because, despite what high school teachers everywhere insist, so little of what we read or write is completely one thing or the other. This post is a perfect example of that: a little bit of personal writing, a little informational, and even the tiniest bit of argument, I think – plus the bonus of the Google maps link (those trees look taller than 10 feet!!). Taken together, your smile became mine, and I left the post a little more knowledgeable than I was before. Thanks for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda, I’m glad you smiled too!

      I mostly write narratives for personal pleasure, despite writing a lot of non-fiction science content for school. I’ve been making an effort to combine the two, so I was really happy to see that it was something you liked. I love the idea of high school students writing multi-genre material, because you’re right: we rarely write just one type of anything.

      The Google map street view does make the trees look taller, but I can see the ones I was talking about since I know where to look. Regardless, the songwriter Rich Mullins has me covered with a line from one of my favorite songs: “This is the world as best as I can remember it.”

      Thanks for reading. I’d love to see some of your students’ work if it ever hits the ‘net.


  3. I love that you captured the hope for nature so perfectly! That is one good thing that seems to have arrived while we are all sheltering in place – nature has found ways to be more durable. Birds and other wildlife and TREES have been able to grow and live more freely because people aren’t stopping them by walking loudly through the trails which they call hike or cutting them down to build more apartments. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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