After the farm fails and the barbed wire rusts away, what's left? We've seen before that once people and their things leave a place, their plants remain. We've seen that most notably in the springtime daffodils next to the foundation of ruined cabin. Except for the daffodils, I would have walked right by the cabin.
At the end of May, I took a stroll on the White Oak Trail at Hawn State Park. I had never hiked it before, so I thought I'd check it out. It's not a bad little trail. It passes through a couple of different types of forest. A lot of the trail passes through mature, open woods. And some of passes through what must have been pasture long ago.
But I didn't recognize it at the time. At first, all I saw was an extraordinarily large ceder, so large that I stopped to take a picture of it (thumbnail). I don't recall ever seeing one quite so big before.
In any case, I went on down the trail, had lunch, took pictures, did all the usual hiking things. On the way back, I noticed again the things I had noted the first time. Yes, I said to myself, there are the rocks where I sat and had lunch. And there's that big cedar again. And then I noticed:
There wasn't just one absolutely enormous cedar, but four, growing in a straight line. How could I have missed it?
I spent a good twenty minutes puzzling it out. Trees don't line up like honor guard Marines, all the same size, all in a line. I finally decided that the trees marked an old fence line, in part because the ground was slightly higher along the line occupied by the trees, and partly because the line sketched by the trees intersected at a right angle with a tattered fragment of barbed wire twenty yards or so away. And the surrounding woods weren't completely filled in---there were a few spots here and there where grass still grew between the trees.
In retrospect, the sequence of events seems pretty obvious. At one time the area was pasture, and some cedars sprouted along a fence line. Perhaps the farmer stapled his wire to them. Or perhaps there was no point in rooting them out. Perhaps they simply looked pretty in the distance. No matter the reason, the cedars grew free from competition with other trees (especially with other cedars) because livestock kept the pasture down. Eventually, small scale cattle raising became uneconomical, and the farmer abandoned the pasture, which grew up in woods again. But by this time, the cedars were big enough to be the biggest trees in their patch of woods, big enough that the new trees presented no competition. Eventually the fence posts rotten and the wire rusted away, leaving the cedars, lined up for review.