Arbor Day (1872)

Today, as one born and raised in Nebraska, I celebrate Arbor Day, a day initiated in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton a Nebraska newspaper editor who served as President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture. As a youth in the 1930s, I remember observing the day by helping to plant trees in the ranch lands of the Nebraska Sandhills.

“Proposing for the future”
was J. Sterling Morton’s theme
planting trees on Arbor Day
was J. Sterling Morton’s dream.

The cowboys hooted loudly
when they first learned the news
breaking sod to plant some trees
was contrary to their views.

Next they’ll plant a garden
around the water hole
and where then will cattle drink?
Their thirst will take it’s toll.

Then they’ll want a barb wire fence
surrounding all that grows,
cutting up the prairie
and handing out the hoes.

They’ll take away the horses
and drive the herds away
to save all those blasted trees
planted on Arbor Day.

Cowboys slapped their knees and laughed
at their thought’s absurdity
and, returning to their herds,
thought of Morton’s verity.

From the book, Where Horses Reign, © 2004.