November 29, 2009

Caretaker Worried About Tree of Liberty

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- In a small public park of a once-prosperous section of Philadelphia sits a single, special tree.  The Tree of Liberty has been looked after for over 200 years by an unbroken stream of volunteers, who call themselves caretakers.  The caretakers prefer to remain anonymous, but will gladly share their experiences and the history of the tree if asked.

The current caretaker, 85 and a World War II veteran, is still spry and his eyes glitter as he talks about the tree he has helped maintain for the last 68 years.  "It was planted by a small group in 1776 for everyone to enjoy.  It was a completely new species, although related to ones that used to grow in Greece and Italy centuries ago.  Over the years it grew into a magnificent sight and inspired people everywhere.  We have taken seeds from this tree and planted them in several other countries in Europe and the far east.  We'd like every country to have one, but that is a very big job and will take time."

When asked about whether he has any formal training in horticulture, he just laughs.  "No.  Us caretakers are just average citizens with the desire to give something back to a country we love.  We work from a few ancient manuals and documents that the original planters put together for us.  It isn't much, but it has always been enough to keep the tree healthy."

It isn't clear if that is enough, though, because the tree has been in steady decline since the 1930s, with this last year being especially bad.  "It has had its ups and downs, but the tree has never been this bad - ever.  I don't think it's because the instructions are wrong, I just think the community hasn't been following them like it should and the tree is starting to wither and die."  He adamantly opposes the idea of some form of government assistance to help.  "The instructions are very clear on that point: governments are not supposed to touch the tree."

In addition, he's worried about the current generation and who will care for it when he's gone.  "I went on vacation a couple years back and left it in the care of a young fellow who is attending law school nearby.  He seemed like a smart, trustworthy young man.  Well, he got concerned about how bad it looked and decided to do something about it."  The young man had read in the manuals that it required the "blood of patriots and tyrants" from time to time.  "When I returned from my vacation, I found the New England Patriots football team doing some sort of blood drive with media and politicians - it was a real circus.  They all meant well, just misguided.  And of course, it didn't help."

He feels that the young man may have had the right instructions, but didn't understand them.  "That phrase is probably the right prescription.  I think there are still some true patriots we could call on for blood donations, but the problem is finding tyrants.  Usually, tyrants are kings and dictators.  We don't have those here, but I'm hoping a Czar or two will be close enough."

No comments:

Post a Comment