Tag Archives: shelterbelt

And Then the Artist Died


I once knew a young man who dreamed, and then bought a piece of land to create a tree nursery. As sometimes happens, dreams can come easy, but fulfilling them can be difficult. It turned out; this piece of land couldn’t produce a healthy, profitable crop. The young dreamer discovered this when he planted his first crop of trees. They did come up from the ground, but spindly and almost naked.

He tested the soil and found it depleted of the vital life giving nutrients. He tested for worms and insects and found few living there. This piece of the earth was poison and anemic from many years of poor soil conservation.

The young nurseryman, determined to turn this land into a productive and healthy environment to raise his family, massaged and nursed this wretched piece of earth until life returned to it. Each year, his piece of Earth grew healthier as did his harvest of young trees.

As his land produced, so did his wife. Their two beautiful daughters grew up in the open air, with the rich work ethic this man and wife practiced. Another dream fulfilled! They did their jobs, each an artist with individual style, raising what each raises best. Both were artists in their own right.

I worked during the summers for Ray. He taught me, a fatherless boy, the things that successful men do. They handle business, other people, and life with panache. They hold their heads up and look other men in the eye. They do their best to do the things that are righteous and that make sense.

He planted his trees and bushes all over the state for shelterbelts to stop the prairie winds, and landscaping projects to make the country beautiful. No matter which direction I drove, I saw his hand in conservation, soil preservation, and beauty.

He created his style of art where there was once nothing. That’s what some artists do!

I grew up and began my own adventures. These adventures took me far from my home, and Ray’s Nursery. Time passed, and I dreamt, created my family and a style of my own.

While I was gone, Ray grew old, sold the place, and passed on.

I returned home a few years later and drove out to the nursery for nostalgia’s sake. The large white and red sign that said Ray’s Nursery was gone, and there was a tractor cultivating corn where the young trees should have been.

I was heartbroken and angry!

A man spends his whole life conceiving, planning, laboring, and succeeding. When he dies, someone comes along and ploughs it under, turning new soil to the top, and burying all of the memories deep. In a few years, the memories of what was created here will be forgotten.

I ask myself, “Why bother fighting so hard! When I’m gone, someone will only come along and bury everything I’ve done, and as time moves on, what I’ve created will be forgotten.”


A writer’s mind is a funny thing. The conscious mind handles day to day tasks while back in the mind’s workshop, there is serious creating going on. Most people never realize it is happening.

That’s why there are so few artists. Learned artists and writers not only know it’s happening, but massage it, nurture it, and give it room to work.

When it is ready, sometimes with a little encouragement, the mind produces the most remarkable things. For a writer, it may be only an idea, but hopefully a complete story pours out, like this one.

Once I got over being angry, I remembered what I once thought about driving hundreds of miles in any direction, and seeing Ray’s handiwork. There are thousands and thousands of trees, elms, cottonwood, plum and cherry, still there, feeding and giving shelter to wildlife, holding the soil down, and they will be doing this for centuries to come. Ray’s signature is written so large on the land; it can’t be seen by most, and no one can bury it all!

I know it’s there.

The question is, “What can I do to honor this artist?”

I just say, “Thank you Ray!”

Then publish this piece “in his memory”.