This is what remains of the old forest.
It’s a decaying old oak tree that was standing here when most of this land was pasture. My guess is that its acorns were used as pannage for the hogs, but when the farmers left in that great Appalachian exodus in the 1950′s. The pasture was left to grow up and become woods again.
This tree was a “den tree” to countless generations of gray squirrels, and now its trunk is being devoured by the larvae of several species of beetle, a fact that has not been lost on the local woodpeckers, who have pock-marked the trunk from top to bottom.
Eventually the decaying trunk will crumble to the ground, and it will rot away, providing nutrients to the forest floor from whence it sprang.
Most of the trees in this forest are young. They are among the first colonizers of what was once pasture land.
West Virginia’s tourist motto is “Wild and Wonderful,” and one might be deluded into thinking that all this forested country is something that always was.
The truth is that its current forested condition is a very recent phenomenon. The destruction of the agrarian economy following the Second World War that was then followed by a decline in timber prices in more recent years has meant that the land is once again holding forest.
Forest is good habitat for many species.
But we’ve traded the species in some cases. We now have ruffed grouse and woodcock instead of bobwhites and stocked pheasants. The gray fox is the most common small canid now, whereas in most of the country, the red is far more numerous. White-tailed deer now graze the ridges where once flocks of sheep were turned out.
The farming civilization that was once here is now no more. Farming is now an industrial practice. Back then, it was a way of life.
Once the whole region operated under a very strong Gemeinschaft.
That culture is now mostly gone. The older people still care about each other, and they remember the old times.
But now the houses along the country roads are more likely to have meth labs operating in them than simple farm families.
John Boy Walton has moved onto the big city.
And if you can leave, you might as well get high.
This old tree once stood where people made their living.
Now it will stand where the wild beasts do.
Nothing in this world remains static.
The only thing that is constant is that things constantly change.
Nature is really the story of chaos, then the semblance of order , then more chaos.
The truth is that human civilization is very much like nature in this same respect.
Constant change– chaos, order, then more chaos.