Janie Slater, White Fence Realty

Champions Among Us

In Past Columns, Writing on 10/05/2009 at 5:17 pm

I didn”t know there were such things as National Champion Trees before I received a book of outdoor adventures for Christmas. Byron, Georgia, just south of Macon on 75, has the National Champion Blackjack Oak Tree, meaning it is the largest tree of its kind in the entire country. So I wanted to lay my eyeballs on this tree.

It”s a bummer when a book on outdoor adventures prints wrong directions. But that”s what happened. So the kids and I chased a wild goose trying to find this tree. It sits in the churchyard of Byron United Methodist Church. When we pulled in, I was looking for something the size and impact of, you know, the Eiffel Tower. Instead, we finally asked somebody and they pointed to the right tree. Standing beside it, it was impressive. Kind of. It”s a tall tree with a thick trunk. “Is this all?” asked Carolina. “You mean we drove all this way to see THIS”!” echoed Joseph. “Hmmm,” I muttered back, studying the tree with narrower eyes, hoping it would transmit some wisdom back to me. I waited for something deep to strike me.

Nothing. Frankly, my first thought was that the old oak tree outside Evergreen Baptist Church outside Metter is much more of an impressive “presence.” But the fact is, this tree is a champion. Using a point scoring system of four criteria, it beats out every other tree of its kind in the nation. It doesn”t matter how it compares to the trees around it”or to the Eiffel Tower.

On the threshold of a new year, it”s fitting to consider the concept of what makes a champion–of someone. Like the champion trees, champion people can go unnoticed and unlauded. People doing amazingly selfless and sacrificial acts who will never make any national, or local, registry (many, at least, not this side of heaven). Like the Blackjack Oak we visited, unless someone points them out, and says “it”s at least 20 feet taller than any other of its kind,” we wouldn”t take notice. They do not draw attention to themselves. They”re simply busy being the best that they can be — soaring above the rest, quietly.

The lessons of this champion Blackjack Oak: Stop making unnecessary comparisons. Realize you will hear occasional voices around you saying things like, “Is this all?” — these voices don”t make you any less who you are. Use the resources God gives you and grow where you”re planted. Champions don”t spring up overnight — they”re a lifetime in the making.

Back at home, I did some digging and found that Metter has a National Champion Tree. The National Champion Yaupon holly tree grows in the Guido Gardens! Guido Gardens also grows the Georgia Champion Common Apple Tree. The Georgia Champion American Sycamore grows here in Metter, owned by Robert Bell Jr. The Georgia Champion Bradford Pear is in Aline, owned by Jack Martin. Wow, all these unnoticed, unsung champions among us. Who knew?

For more information about Champion Trees, visit the Georgia Forestry Commission website at http://www.gfc.state.ga.us and do a search on “champion trees.”

(originally published by Metter News & Advertiser 18 January 06)

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