Treemendous Tom: I Always Wanted to be a Tree
Published November 1, 2015 By TREEMENDOUS TOM
The following article was published in the International Society of Arboriculture, Texas Chapter newsletter in 2015, as well as newsletters for Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists in the region.
Ever wonder what it is like to be a tree? Gently swaying in the breeze or standing at attention to survive all that Texas has weather has to offer. The sunshine would make you smile but an ice storm would make you frown. A snow storm could give you some very cool clothes but too much white would not be a good thing.
Being a tree, you would never have to deal with politics, money, taxes, unreasonable people, or idiot drivers. Buying insurance or dealing with relatives…not a worry. I could grow to like this tree gig thing. I think I would much rather be…a tree.
I wanted to be a tree for so long…I eventually became one. Not all at once. First there were a few leaves that appeared in the hair and I tried to ignore it. As my skin started to turn to bark, it became tough to ignore. I always wanted to be a tree but…I never thought I would grow into one. It seems to happen only on the night before an Arbor Day, Earth Day, or Farm Day event. I wonder if there is always a full moon on the night before or if it is just a coincidence? Okay, I am just teasing.
Someone needed to develop a tree costume because the one that shows up at Earth Day Texas each year stands on stilts and scares the children. Not the ideal image of trees for children. Surfing the internet did not find anything close to looking like a nice talking tree. The first costume designer that was contacted wanted to cover the costume in ivy leaves, but a Swedish ivy blob was not our goal. She just did not understand that a tree man must look like a cool tree and not a house plant. Eventually, a seamstress and friend that had done some costume work, Christie Yarbrough and another friend, RuthAnn Jackson, offered to help.
As various parts were developed, we decided not to build a frankentree suit but rather, a nice talking tree that handed out “Trees are the Answer” bumper stickers and educated others about the benefits of trees. Sounds easy but developing an ivy blob is not the same as a talking tree that actually has a root flare.
According to some, the first versions of the costume looked more like a “camouflaged sniper”. Not quite the look we were going for. My daughter laughed and made me swear not to tell anyone my real name. Not a good sign. Others gave a look that was worth a thousand words…call the men in the white coats. Needless to say, being a tree sounded more psychotic than fun.
To avoid embarrassing family and friends, we developed a name and proclaimed him to be “Treemendous Tom, the Tree Education Guy”.
The first steps of Treemendous Tom involved carefully walking into the crowd at Earth Day Texas to avoid any root damage. Most were laughing and accepted a "Trees Are the Answer" bumper sticker. Other reactions:
• Parents wanted their children to hug "Tom" for a photo. One small girl had her photo taken, but happened to see my boot sticking out from under a root. She yelled out loud “Mommy look at that, he is not a real tree…there is a boot under there”. We laughed until we cried.
• A few would see me and run the other way to avoid having to deal with some crazy tree guy who must be selling something.
• Some just had a look that says “you really need some serious help there pal”.
• A few passed and yelled “I am Groot” and a limb was raised in recognition. (This makes no sense unless you saw the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”).
• As a few friends approached, I ask if they wanted a sticker. Afterward, I would say something that only a friend would know about. They always responded by saying “Do I know you?” Of course my response was something even more personal and they responded with “Who the hell are you?” By this time, the laughter was hurting my sides, especially when they figured out my identity.
• Folks with displays wanted a photo of Treemendous Tom in their booth to post somewhere. Likely with a note that says "It appears one of the Austin weirdo’s was in attendance”.
It was cool being a tree for a day, but the dogs that came near my roots started to become a worry. I may look too much like a tree!! All I need next year is a few little acorns and saplings to walk with me.
By the way, my botanic name is Quercus houserii.
Treemendous Tom (AKA Steve Houser)