This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 7, 1993

April 7, 1993 - Arbor Day

The last time my wife and I drove across Kansas was during our move to Colorado.

It was 98 degrees and relentlessly sunny. We were driving two cars, neither one of which had air-conditioning. My wife was six months pregnant. I had two extremely distressed cats in the car, and was afraid to open the windows too far for fear they'd jump out.

Garrison Keillor sings a song about a similar situation, with the lines:

"Oh dogs they love to travel, with their faces to the breeze. But cats sit trembling on your lap and vomit on your knees."

It was a rough drive, especially when we finally realized that we were driving across the only state in the union that is wider than Canada.

I mean, Kansas was bleak. God's ironing board, Kansas seemed to have only enough trees to make you realize how truly barren it was.

That was five years ago. A few weeks back, we took the trip the other way -- to Illinois for a wedding. Frankly, I dreaded it. While we weren't taking any cats, we did plan to bring our five year old, Maddy.

Much to my surprise, we all enjoyed it. This time we took the back road -- U.S. 36. We found that our eyes had grown accustomed to the openness of the high plains. With some good audiocassettes to listen to (E.B. White's Stuart Little, some Prairie Home Companion reunions, some Jim Weiss folk and fairy tale tapes) the miles just flew behind us.

Nonetheless, in Kansas you can still spot towns from a great distance. Anywhere there are trees, there are people. The farther east we went, the more trees we saw.

I believe the desire for over-arching branches, for shade, for colorful foliage, for visible roots, is a deep ancestral need. Or maybe it's just that for a long time in this country's history, everybody's parents were born some place back east.

In either case, trees mean "home." Or as Stuart Little put it, "For you I pine. For you I balsam."

And that leads me to the point of this week's column. Saturday, April 17, 1993, is Arbor Day. This will be Douglas County's Third Annual celebration.

In the past two years, over a thousand trees have been planted in the county. This year, the sponsors hope to plant half again as many.

Apart from the natural beauty of the trees native to or thriving in Colorado -- the blue spruce, the Ponderosa, the pinon, the foxtail, the hackberry, green and purple ash, to name just a few of the most fetching -- there are many other good, if less poetic, reasons to support this worthwhile local effort.

* Two hundred years ago, topsoil averaged 18 inches in depth. Today the average is just 6 inches. Why the drop? Trees hold the soil. The United States loses 700,000 acres of forest land annually.

* The average tree removes 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a year's time -- and carbon dioxide is one of the most significant environmental pollutants of our time.

* One mature tree offsets the carbon dioxide produced by up to 10 cars.

To reach their goal, the planning committee for the Douglas County Arbor Day needs to raise $7,000. They've already raised $9,100. Where will the rest of the money come from?

You. Individual gifts in the amounts of $5, $10, $20, $30, $50 and up are desperately needed and will go for the sole purpose of buying trees. To donate money, send it to DOUGLAS COUNTY ARBOR DAY, P.O. BOX 1390, CASTLE ROCK CO 80104. If you'd like to help plant the trees, contact Joe Julian or Jacki Hein at 688-3096.

You have a choice: long for the gentle, forested days of your youth, or plant for the future. This simple gift -- of trees, or of the time to help plant them -- will do more to improve the quality of life in Douglas County -- your home -- than you can possibly imagine.

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