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One Scaley-Barked Hickory Tree
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 by Frank Shortt
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It stands tall, a stately sentinel in a park in Abingdon, Virginia. Not far away is the now-famous Barter Theater where such as Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Randolph Scott, and a host of others began their acting careers. Also, nearby is the Martha Washington Inn, a landmark of by-gone days 1860-present.

All these actors, and then-called actresses, must have sat in the shade of this old hickory tree, home to all the denizens of the park, awaiting their turn on the stage. It provides winter food for chipmunks, squirrels, and an occasional bunny who dares venture onto the verdant surroundings. Its limbs provide rest, and sometimes nesting for Cardinal birds, meadowlarks, wrens, and in winter, chickadees.

If one should ask this aged giant of the area, “What have you seen as the history of this great country of America was being formed?”
It would reply, “I saw the boys of Southwest Virginia, grown bored by farm work, marching eastward toward the battlefields eastward in the Old Dominion. There were the Addisons, and the Richardsons of Dickenson County, joining up with Captain Hunt, who was with General Lee as he surrendered at Appomatox Courthouse after a long and bloody conflict of brother against brother, even father against son! The ‘Lost Cause’ is what they referred to the South’s part in the Civil war afterwards!”

This old forest habitant saw soldiers once again as the Germanic Hordes overran France, heading to England and other countries. These were called ‘Doughboys’ as they marched by the old tree for the trenches that oftentimes became their graves. This was known as the ‘War to end all Wars’ as the nations of earth joined together to fight the Kaiser and his allies. Once again there were Addisons, Richardsons, and even Shortts who gave their lives that Europe could once more enjoy freedom from oppression. Some of these farm hands thought Abingdon to be the biggest city they had ever imagined in their closed-in lives. Actually, Abingdon was a small farm community once called ‘Wolf Hills’ by Daniel Boone after wolves attacked his dogs during a hunting expedition. The town was later called ‘Black’s Fort’ during the Indian wars with the Cherokee. It was named Abingdon in 1778 after the ancestral home of Martha Washington in England.

In the late 1930’s a man rose to power in Germany known as the ‘Little Corporal’ as that was the rank he attained during the First World War. He decided to overrun and control all of Europe, with an eye for the rest of the world. If this old Hickory tree could talk it would tell tales of “The long lines of Southwest Virginia farm boys, some no more than fifteen or sixteen, marching once again for the cause of freedom. These boys had served in the CCC camps prior to being called upon to fight the Germanic Hordes once again. They had built dams, bridges, roads and other infrastructure erections all over America and felt that they were capable of defeating any enemy to world peace and freedom!” The ‘deadly foes of freedom’ took a little longer to defeat as Germany was joined by allies, Mussolini of Italy, and Tojo of Japan.

Old Scaley Bark Hickory, you have seen other boys heading to foreign shores during the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and to other places to fight as America became ‘Big Brother’ to many small nations not able to withstand the onrushes of maddened countrymen, as well as men from without!

The history you have observed, oh aged one, would fill volumes of history books. Now that you are protected by the citizens of Abingdon, it is assured that you will see many more historical events transpire. It is our hope that you will always be able to stand guard under the Red, White, and Blue banner of the United States of America!
Long may she wave!