Retired President Harry Truman took daily walks around his neighborhood in Independence , Missouri . He was accompanied by a Secret Service body guard . The body guard later wrote that Truman always said something upon passing a large tree that grew not far from his house . What he told the tree every day was : ” You’re doing a good job . “
Ada and I took a little hike in the woods today . There were lots of trees . I thought of the Truman tree tale . I told it to Ada as we trudged along and she may have wondered if the altitude had got to my head . But then I asked her what was running through her mind , out there on the switchback trail up the mountain , with birds fluttering , occasional chipmunks racing , in a world of trees .
When I was 18 I was up in these mountains with a group of inner city kids . They were nine or ten years old and city kids . Most of them had never been out of the inner city . Never in the wilderness . My group was a spirited bunch and we were on a long hike .
One little guy suddenly crumbled down onto the trail and moaned . I ran up to him and heard him whimpering : ” My heart ! My heart ! ” That wasn’t what I would have chosen to hear right then , out in the middle of nowhere . The guy was a complainer , yeah ; but then again , he had to be taken seriously .
No cell phones in those days . The other groups from our camp were up ahead of us , and behind , but perhaps miles away . I was it . Alternatives would have raced through my mind had there been any . I had one desperate idea I thought that I’d try .
I had a first aid kit with only a bandage , some antiseptic , and a couple of Pepto-Bismol tablets . I told the ‘my heart, my heart’ kid , who was clutching his chest , that I had some extremely powerful heart medicine . It was so powerful , I said, that I could only give him a small piece of the pill . I broke the pink tablet apart and gave the little kid a piece of it . And then I waited .
Three or four seconds later he said that the heart medicine had worked . He stood up , brushed himself off a little , and we were off . I was breathing again as my group continued to our rendezvous point somewhere up ahead .
I was thinking, too , about this odd incident as Ada and I were hiking today . She told me that she was thinking about letters . She found herself wondering about her use of the English language . Use of the proper article was a particular concern for her .
The trees were watching and listening . The birds , I suspect , were eavesdropping , too . I could have sworn I heard a tall ponderosa pine tell Ada that she was doing a good job . Just like that , in kind of a whispery voice . Maybe it was my imagination , though . Could be the altitude getting to me .
Burt , of Burt’s Bees , said he never had a complaint about an oak tree . I , on the other hand , have some oak tree complaints , but I’ll let those rest for now . I’ve got a huge one in the corner of my back yard . Three of my neighbors have it , too . Same tree . It drops acorns all over that sprout all over the garden . It dribbles sap anywhere underneath itself . It grows this way and that , carelessly , inelegantly . ( Okay , so I didn’t let them rest . ) It does a good job , though , that oak tree .
I was surrounded by trees today . The city below carried on , I suppose . The trees down there , such as the oak in my yard , do their best in a tough environment . Oh , I guess a few of them wish that they could crumble to their knees , sink down onto the ground , and whimper . but they go on ; they go on without powerful heart medicine, or Pepto-Bismol ; and , they do a good job .