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Cattle Drive House

There were oak trees by the Cattle Drive house. Live Oaks — a cluster of them shading a narrow walkway. But we knew there was a broad swathe of Oak Wilt ravaging the neighborhood back then, and we worried those trees were in its path. The prospect of them dying was painful. They were what made the house worth buying. Without them, there would be nothing in the yard except for some young Cedar Elms in the back.

We bought the house and devised a backup plan involving two new trees in the back  and four in front. They were tiny, but we treated them very well. They thrived in the years that followed, and the cluster of Live Oaks thrived along with them.

That was three decades ago. And time has taken it’s toll. Many years ago, a squirrel killed one of the backyard backups (a Texas Red Oak), but the other one (a Monterey Oak that always felt like a brother) did well. And fortunately the Live Oaks did, too. Until recently.

I drove by the other day, taking the long road home from the vet. The cluster of oaks on the side of the house is dead. Barren branches. No leaves left. And Brother Oak in the back is dead, too.

That the Live Oaks died should perhaps not be a shock. We had braced for the event 30 years ago. But Brother Monterey Oak’s passing hurts. It was two feet tall when I planted it, mulching it with great care, spraying its leaves with fish emulsion in its early years to give it a boost until it had grown too high for the fishy smelling spray to reach. As I drove by, I could see its dead branches from the street, grown taller than the house, and my heart dropped.

On the other hand, the Cedar Elms in the back are big now. And there are four backup trees thriving in the front. There is the Texas Red Oak which has grown into an impressive tree near the street, surrounded by the limestone terrace I built that week long ago is such a fit of multi-day focus that the sounds of my Mockingbird companions sang in my dreams for years. And there is an Arroyo Sweetwood that buzzes with bees in the spring. And the Mexican Plum with its drought tolerant, wrinkled leaves. And the Lacy Oak that I sadly planted too close to the plum as young homeowners are apt to do when they young trees.

So the backup plan worked.

The trees have grown much since we planted them, and the front yard has much shade from them, even though the walkway along the side of the house is no longer as magical as it was that day thirty days ago when we first saw that little Cattle Drive house for sale.