What He Loved Most
There were two things Lucas Brown had a strong love for in life. The first was his family. Debra was his beautiful wife and they had three lovely children named Shelly, Kenny, and Brian.
The second thing he loved most in his life was his farm. He put a lot of effort into farming, which the family saw as more than just a small-scale ranch. They lived from the earnings they made from selling their farm product, but Lucas was heartbroken when he realized that his land was diminishing little by little.
The Browns used their farm to sell birch, pine, and spruce trees in their local market and they sold well. The family thought of planting apple and maple trees and waited anxiously to see the outcome.
The farm was filled with tall swaying trees growing in rich, dark soil. They had one tree in particular that they treasured the most, but the family never guessed it would cause them many problems.
A Typical Morning
Lucas usually drove down to the farm every morning to inspect his trees. He would look into everything from how acidic the soil was to how healthy the trees themselves were looking. That morning, he got up early for the daily check-up accompanied by his child Kenny. What they found out later, was something they least expected.
A Different Smell
Lucas first noticed a burning stench lingering in the morning air. The foul smell mixed in with the usual smell of leaves, tree bark, and wet soil. They hardly moved around the farm on foot, but that day, Lucas suggested to them that they should continue on foot. It was almost as if he knew something was wrong, and they needed to find out what it was based on the strange feeling Lucas had been having when they arrived at the farm.
He Should Put A Stop To It
Lukas was sweating buckets as he spat into the grass. He took a step back to get a better look while holding tighter onto his axe. He wanted to stop the tree from destroying his entire farm. He swung his axe with all his might, but his determination was cut short when he sensed something around.
These Were Different
They made their way towards the center of the farm, the stench becoming stronger as they went. Lucas noticed that the trees grew lighter as they were getting closer. He imagined how the tree usually appeared dark green. Kenny spoke out his mind about what he was thinking and said "something wasn't right". Kenny studied agriculture at the university and he told his dad to look at the leaves. Immediately, Lucas' eyes
A Horrible Sight
Lucas stared at the leaves, although he was still having unbelieving feelings as they scanned the tree. There was an army of grey caterpillars covering practically the entirety of the tree from its leaves to its base. Lucas was very upset.
Kenny called his dad’s attention and said that it looked like they were spreading out from the center of the farm. He thought he knew where they were coming from.
Lucas needed to get the caterpillar attack under control, so he called their local botanist. "Where was the smell coming from?" he thought to himself while he was still feeling speechless. He was so deep in thought when Kenny walked up to him and patted him on his back just to get his dad's attention.
Lucas hurried over to his son, standing by the mighty white oak in the center of their farm. What was coming out of it seemed to be indescribable.
A Sad Reality
There were some cracks on the tree's bark, and a grey liquid came out of it. Pests had eaten the leaves, and the branches were now covered by silky webbing. Lucas felt like he wanted to throw up but instead asked Kenny to fetch his axe.
Kenny ran to the truck to retrieve it and gave it to his dad. He saw his dad's reaction as he had to make a tough decision. What he said had Lucas' eyes filled up with tears.
A Sad Realization
"Dad I think that our prized tree is gone," Kenny said but his father didn't utter a word. His eyes were fixed on the withering tree, he didn't know whether to laugh or cry. All he just said was that "Upon much effort to look after it, it had been withering away during the past year".
This tree was very special to the Browns. Lucas and his brother Larry had grown up with the tree in their family generations before that had also grown up with the tree. Lucas tried to prepare himself for what he had to do, but he wasn't sure of having the capacity to do it. He thought of what his brother, who moved upstate, would think.
Bringing Down A Mighty Oak
"It’s alright, Dad,” his son comforted him. “The caterpillars have been nesting here. If we don’t cut her down now, we might lose the farm.” Lucas motioned himself back and let the axe fly.
Thick grey liquid poured out of the cut. The stench was unbearable. Kenny handed over a handkerchief to his dad which he tied around his face. He swung a couple of times, making significant progress. And then they saw something strange.
They Found Something
The tree creaked as the axe’s blade cut deep into its trunk. Lucas pulled the axe out and cut once more. As he tried cutting its trunk more smelly liquid poured out, and this time, the smell was very worse.
Lucas moved back as he could no longer cope with its terrible smell, then Kenny came closer to investigate. “What is that?” he asked, looking very amazed at the dirty white blob that was wedged amid the ooze. As it bobbed along with the thick liquid. As Lucas saw what Kenny was investigating, he poked it with his axe, then he remembered an old moment that he had with his siblings. It came surfacing in his mind.
A Time Capsule
He remembered how he and his brother Larry had spent years playing on the land as kids, long before Lucas turned it into a farm then. They loved practicing their golf swing by driving balls at this very tree because it was one of their favorite sports.
They had once lost a golf ball in this part of the land, which they never saw again. His eyes ran wet again, but it wasn’t from the stench this time.
The Special Ball
Lucas and his brother, Larry, spent many summers here. Their favorite game had become a sibling quarrel. On one occasion, the score was a draw with 19 hits each. The next hit was going to be the decider.
The match between them had become such a competition. It seemed not interested in using one of its ordinary balls. That was when Larry remembered the “special ball.”
A Walk Down Memory Lane
He also remembered when legendary golfer Jack Niklaus won the 1966 Masters Tournament, Lucas and Larry Brown’s grandfather, Thomas Brown, had been there. The ball had been signed by Niklaus and given to him.
Being one of the balls Niklaus had used in the tournament, it was something of a family inheritance. Since the ball had been passed down from the boys' grandfather to their dad, it had always been held as something of great value.
A Huge Loss
It had been a bad choice to use the ball. Lucas was confused when he won the game, only to find out that there was no trace of the ball around. The ball had been part of their grandfather’s collection.
They had an argument over whose fault it was that the precious got lost. Arguments like Lucas being the last hit that lost the ball, or Larry convincing him to use the ball for the last shot. Both boys kept arguing about the missing ball all day, with either of them complaining about whose fault it was.
Those sweet moments he had with his sibling then flashed away from his mind, as he stared at the gooey liquid still pouring down the hollow cavity in the trunk. He could still make out the faint lines of the autograph on the ball through the murky grey color of the liquid.
"It seems that not only had the liquid kept the ball hidden all these years; it had also somehow kept it well-preserved too," he said to Kenny as he cheered himself up with a smile.
Getting It Back
With the help of Kenny, they both used gloves to carefully remove the ball from the sappy tomb. Gently spraying off as much of the gooey liquid as he could, Lucas dried off the rest. After he had dried off the left gooey liquid from the ball, he moved his hand around the ball and was very amazed, to see that the ball was still in pretty good shape.
Although it now had some minor stains, the autograph had been done with a permanent marker. Despite being a little faded, the valuable signature was still there as Lucas remembered it.
Lucas Was Thrilled
Lucas, still looking amazed, had given up hope of being reunited with the special ball. As he held the ball to his chest as a sign of something he cherished much, tears rolled down his left eye as he wished his dad and grandfather could have seen it one last time.
The liquid’s odor became stronger now as it woke him out of his daydream. The hole made into the trunk seemed to disagree with being exposed to the elements. There was still work to do.
The botanist, Lara Peltzer, eventually arrived. She recommended that Lucas spray the farm as soon as possible to minimize the harmful effects of the caterpillar infestation.
To avoid any contamination of neighboring farms, she also urged quarantining of the farm. As for the odd liquid, Lara explained that the tree had hollowed out over the years, and water had likely collected inside it. But this wasn’t the strange part.
Something Out Of A Science Friction Movie
Lara explained to Lucas and Kenny that over the years, the harsh shifts in conditions had turned the inside of the tree into a bacterial hideout. With millions of microorganisms penetrating inside the tree, they had begun to destroy its structure from the inside out.
Between the water gathering on the inside and the chemical gasses being produced by the bacteria, it was likely a unique kind of tree bacteria known as "slime flux".
Lara spent hours analyzing the strange substance. After collecting some part of it for further lab testing, she finally packed up her equipment.
She promised to do what she could to ensure that Brown’s farming activities were revived by quarantining. Lucas was still a little worried about one thing. As he walked up to ask Lara, he was afraid of what her response would be, he kept mute.
The Other Heirloom
Lucas Brown had always been proud of his heritage. After years of his research, he discovered that the land on which the family farm was built had been in the Brown family for six generations.
The land was among the oldest plots in the state. Lucas had seen pictures of his ancestors that spanned the last four generations. Amid all the changes the photos highlighted down the years, one thing always remained the same.
The mighty oak tree had been a value of the Brown's property. It had existed all through the previous generation and still stood tall, like a sentinel watching over the land.
The photos provided a glimpse into the role it played for each generation that lived here; a swing, a picnic spot, a family portrait site, and in Lucas and Larry’s case, a target for golf practice. But now, it seems like everything is fading away, family memories, the tree itself.
Lucas Couldn't Bear It
Lucas recognized that since the tree seemed to be the cause of the caterpillar infestation, it would need to be cut down. The insect infestation had already damaged its trunk so badly.
It was a sad sight for Lucas to see the mighty tree looking so wounded, he felt as if he could revive it immediately. The roots seemed weathered, Lucas feared that it could be the worst thing Lara would say about the tree if he asked her the question that was bothering his mind. But when he asked Lara about the tree, her answer surprised him.
It Could Be Salvaged
Lara thought long and hard about the tree and analyzed the ground around it several more times. After what felt like an eternity, she turned to Lucas and Kenny who were waiting anxiously to hear what she had to say.
“If you follow my guidelines to the letter afterward, we can still save it,” she assured them. Lucas was overwhelmed with joy, and Kenny was just very surprised at the great news. It would take some work, but it was doable.
A Good Day
There wasn’t anything else Lucas could do for now as the sudden good news made his day. After all the drama of the day, he found himself thinking about all the scenes he had created earlier on the farm and how they ended.
He could finally turn his attention back to the special ball. With Kenny’s help and Lara’s advice on which chemicals to use, the ball was carefully cleaned. Kenny was thrilled to hear the story of its history and knew there was just one thing left to do.
Time To Tell Larry
Lucas called his brother Larry. He told him about their find, and they had a good laugh about their time as kids. Lucas was so grateful that the tree had given him a slice of his childhood experience back.
Since the ball had been left to both him and Larry, Lucas was afraid that a new argument might arise over who should keep it. As he asked Larry’s opinion on this, he dreaded the answer.
It Was Settled
Far from a new tussle over the ball, Lucas was pleasantly surprised when Larry graciously told him that he could keep the ball. Larry had never been married or had children, but he thought it would be a good idea for Lucas to keep the ball.
All Larry told Lucas was that “one day, you can pass it down to your sons too.” It became a settled deal, the ball would stay, but Larry still had one condition.
Larry committed to letting go of having the ball if Lucas promised him one thing: the ball would never be used to practice golf shots again. Lucas had always been proud of his family and their heritage.
As he looked out the window of the ranch, the possession he had seemed even more beautiful that day, the oak tree swaying gently in the breeze. Lucas just hoped it would live on to bring the next generation of Brown the same joy.