Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 28, 2013

The Tree of My Youth

En route to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas

I took a couple of vacation days this week to make a quick trip to South Texas to visit my Dad. It’s been a while since our last visit and, because Dad had surgery last week, I wanted to see him before I leave the country again in April. So, I tossed a few things in my truck and headed South on Tuesday afternoon.

I enjoy having windshield time on Texas highways. This time I decided to not pass the time by passively listening to the radio or iTunes. Instead, I used my time on the road to pray and to think deeply about several things that have been stirring around in my heart. It was time well spent.

Hwy 285 Windmill
Every time I have made this trip home over the past 34-plus-years, there is a point along the way where I begin to feel the gravitational pull of South Texas. For me, it’s when I turn West off of US Route 77 onto Texas State Highway 285 and drive the desolate 22-mile stretch between Riviera and Falfurrias. The range on either side of this road is riddled with gnarled mesquite trees.

Old Mesquite Tree
Call me crazy, but I like mesquite trees. The mesquite is the tree of my youth — the first tree I learned to identify and the first tree I climbed as a kid. We had little grass on the lawn of our home in the small town of Mission, but we had plenty of mesquite trees. I had many an adventure in and around these trees and many fond memories as a result.

Gnarled Mesquite
The name of the tree is an Hispanicized version of the Aztec word mizquiti. This hardy tree refuses to grow straight and has a disposition as defiant as the rugged environment in which it thrives. And, its gnarled wood is as hard as the vaqueros, the cowboys, that settled South Texas. The mesquite is one tough tree — certainly harder to kill than any weed.

285 Mesquites
The mesquite tree is a survivor that laughs in the face of drought. It has a tap-root that can reach depths in excess of a hundred feet and lateral roots that spread in all directions, each designed to drink in the life-giving moisture that enables it to survive in harsh environments. South Texas ranchers either love them or hate them, but there is no middle ground.

Texas writer J. Frank Dobie loved mesquite trees. He wrote, “I could ask for no better monument over my grave than a good mesquite tree, its roots down deep like those of people who belong to the soil, its hardy branches, leaves and fruit holding memories of the soil.” However, pioneer Texas rancher W.T. Waggoner called the mesquite “the devil with roots,” adding “It scabs my cows, spooks my horses, and gives little shade.”

Mesquite and Building
I think that if King David, the great writer of so many of the psalms in the Bible, had lived in South Texas, he would have liked the mesquite tree. And if he had been a vaquero tending cattle among mesquites instead of being a shepherd, the third verse of the first psalm might have looked like this instead:

The righteous man is like a mesquite tree
firmly planted on a barren range
with a tap-root reaching deep for moisture
in order to yield its fruit in its season
and to sustain leaves that do not wither
so that in whatever he does he prospers.

So, I like the ubiquitous mesquite tree. I always know that I am a little closer to home when I catch sight of their gnarled trunks in the distance and see them waving to me with their feathery leaves when I turn on to Highway 285 to begin the final leg of my journey home. It is the tree of my youth and a reminder to always persevere.

La Lomita Mesquite


Responses

  1. I really like Omars 1:3

  2. Omar, I grew up on a farm between Combs and Santa Rosa. So, I can relate to your love of Mesquite. I do too. My wife grew up in Georgia, so she likes pine and big oak trees. For some reason she thinks a 100 year old oak is prettier. I don’t think so. Great article.

    • Thanks, Scott. Your comment made me smile. I agree that there is indeed a beauty in old mesquite trees. Thanks again.

  3. I dearly love the mesquite trees. I am probably the only person to actually plant one in my yard while I was living in West Texas.

    • Anyone who plants a mesquite in their yard is indeed a lover of this tree. Thanks for sharing, Clara.

  4. Good reflection & insightful Omar. To each it’s own…:) I’m partial to the Dogwood Tree…Do U Know Anything About it? By the way, will be Praying for you & Ur father!

    • Thanks, Gene. Appreciate the prayers. Dad is on the mend. Love the Dogwood. Adds beautiful color wherever it is planted.

  5. Good to know your father is doing good, will continue to pray for him!

    Did you know—The Dogwood had been the size of the Oak & other trees. So firm & strong was the tree that it was chosen as the Timber of the Cross! To be used for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, & Jesus, nailed upon it, sensed this, & His gentle pity for all Sorrow & Suffering said to it…”Cuz’ of your regret & pity for my suffering, never again shall the Dogwood Tree grow large enough to be used as a Cross”….Two long & short pedals. & in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be Nail prints, brown with rust & stained with red, & in the center of the Flowers will be a Crown of Thorns, & All who see it will….Remember!

    May this Easter be a Reminder to us All…that the Holy One of God, was crucified on a Tree, to give us Life…let us remember & Praise Him who is so Worthy! May the Lord Bless All of Ya’ll my brother!

    • Beautiful story, Gene. I will never again see the Dogwood tree in quite the same way as I have before. What a great reminder to us of the work of Jesus on the cross. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I was feeling a little homesick for Hebbronville. We moved from there in the 50s. Googled “texas windmill” and your picture completely took me home. (You can take the Texan out of the state, but…) Thank you!

    • You’re welcome, Constance. Love our Texas windmills. They are a part of every true Texans DNA.


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