David Sparks

David Sparks

What a title for a newspaper article, right? Well, please continue reading for an explanation.

As a homeowner, I want my yard to look just right, with the right trees planted to accentuate my home. If selection of the right trees proves difficult for you, maybe I can help by sharing some episodes from my childhood.

The purple leaf plum

Consider the purple leaf plum tree, for example. What a seemingly perfect tree for any front yard. It has beautiful foliage and grows to a medium height that makes a beautiful addition to any yard. However, if you are a fat stupid child of 9 years old who has just been confronted by his father concerning a lie you told him and who was ordered to go out into the yard a get a switch for him to whip you, do not, I strongly repeat, DO NOT get an 8-inch pine limb and, while smirking, bring it back to said father.

(I might mention that this is the first time I had observed the vein on the side of my father’s head throb. I had heard it described to me when he got very angry but had not actually seen it,

until then.)

As I was waiting on my father to return from the yard, I was contemplating my moral victory over him on behalf of all kids ever required to provide their own corporal punishment tools. That

fallacy dissolved completely when he returned to the house dragging the whole purple leaf plum tree, roots and all. I can expertly and factually testify to all kids everywhere, you do not want a whipping with a 4-foot purple leaf plum tree. Do not lie to your parents. If after this whipping my father had wanted an admission of guilt, I would have pleaded guilty to putting the iceberg in front of the Titanic or committing the great train robbery without hesitation. Not to mention the talk about disappointing him with the lie. I think that hurt the most, seeing that in his face.

The white oak

Be careful about planting large trees near your house or driveway. A white oak tree grows very large and provides great shade. However, when we get one of our frequent storms, problems will occur. Like if you are a stupid fat kid of 15 and your father tells you often not to park his truck in the driveway under the big tree, but you are smarter than him and know that he just does not understand that parking under the tree keeps the interior cool and said kid has to move it to cut grass and forgets to move it back.

Then the storm comes, which results in a very large tree limb falling onto the truck with heavy damage. The vein came back. It did not help to listen to my father dealing with the insurance company afterward. Something about a deductible. I did not understand it all, but the vein got impossibly large. I wisely went to find mother.

The pine

Finally the pine tree -- a staple in most yards. It’s a relatively a fast-growing tree that will grow in any soil type. It produces pine straw that can be used in flower beds, and its needles provide shade for the yard.

However, lightning can be a problem with a pine tree. I do not understand the science involved with why they get struck so much, but when they do it usually kills the tree. This happened several times in my father’s front yard. Four trees had to be cut down due to lightning. He had them piled in a ditch beside the road. I thought it looked horrible with all of those

trees in the ditch piled up in front of his house.

So … as a fat kid of 19 now married and moved out of his house, I told him: “Dad, we should

burn those cut-up trees and clear up the front view.” He made a rare mistake here and agreed that we should. So on a 98-degree summer day, we lit the fire. I cannot imagine that lighting 100 gallons of gasoline would burn any hotter or faster than those four dead trees did.

The fire got out of control very quickly and spread to all of the rest of the pine trees in the yard. You see, pine trees in the summer, produce a highly flammable substance called sap. Sap will burst into flames quickly if fire is introduced … and boy was it!

My father took off running to the backyard and returned with the garden hose to fight the blaze. It is at this point that I should tell you that the front yard was sloped toward the road with all of those wonderful pine needles under the trees. I tell you this now to help you understand what happened next. As he got to the edge of the now completely engulfed trees and hit the pine needles, the garden hose hit its limit. His feet were jerked completely out from under him, and he slid underneath the conflagration.

As he was laying there, I looked at the tip of the hose and saw coming out of it a very thin dribble of water, which he was trying to slosh up into the tree. Truth be told, in that moment, my father could have died in a horrible accident and I couldn’t have done a thing to help him because I could not get off the ground from laughing so hard. I did manage to run away later as he got up and looked at me with his eyebrows gone and hair smoking and both veins completely taking over his head.

For some reason, my father never let me have anything to do with fire at his house. I could not even use his hibachi grill. Oh, well, it was his fault he decided to listen to one of my ideas.

Please take into consideration my experiences with trees for your yard before you plant. Remember you, too, could be raising an idiot who might be end up traumatized by trees.

David Sparks is a former Talladega police officer and is a member of the 100 Men Support Group.