Francis’ Loblollies

The other day someone in Buzzy’s Country Store mentioned Maryland’s Critical Areas requirement to plant so many trees along the shoreline before they will approve any renovations or additions you want to do to your house. They even specify what type of trees you must plant. One of the types of trees permitted is the Loblolly Pine which always makes me think of Francis Goddard (click here.) Here is why.

When Pam and I were renovating our house several years ago, we had to comply with the Critical Area mandate that required us to plant several trees and shrubs as part of what they call a Mitigation Plan. When I mentioned this to son Shea, he suggested that I go by and ask Francis Goddard if I could dig up some of the small loblolly pines that he had growing all over his property.

When I dropped in on Francis to run this by him, he was on his back porch doing some brickwork. I apologized for interrupting him and told him why I had come by. He told me to take all the trees I wanted.

And as he told me this, he proceeded to climb up on a rickety 5 gallon plastic bucket that he had placed upside down on top of a metal crate that was also flipped over. He balanced his trowel, a bucket of cement and a couple bricks as he teetered tottered his way up the crate and the bucket to install the last couple rows of brick near the top of the wall. Keep in mind that when this went down, Francis was near 80 years old, so I very cautiously suggested to him “Uh, Mr. Goddard, that looks a little shaky, shouldn’t you be using a step ladder to do that?” He responded rather gruffly “If it’s one thing I can’t stand is someone watching me work trying to tell me how to work.”

Knowing that I had crossed a line, I immediately apologized and said “You’re right. I’m outta here. Good luck and thank you for the trees.” I beat a hasty retreat to my truck and headed back out the driveway to start surveying which loblollies to dig up.

But as I did so, I re-thought our conversation and regretted where and how we had landed. Ultimately, I concluded that if Francis did fall and bust his ass, I would feel guilty as hell about it, even if I had tried to warn him not to be doing it in the first place.

Thus, since I only live a mile down the road from him, I returned home, grabbed an extra 4 foot step ladder that I had and took it back to him.

And as I brought the ladder in to him, he laughed saying I didn’t have to do it and thanked me. I told him “No problem. I appreciate you letting me have those trees.”

End of story, except for a couple days after I had secured and replanted the trees, Shea told me that he had run into Francis somewhere. Shea said that Francis told him “Your old man didn’t have to give me that ladder. I had 3 or 4 of them out in my shed and just didn’t feel like walking out there to get one of ’em.”

Note: I have since learned that there is an old expression that talks to my mistake in trying to give Francis advice: teaching grandma to suck eggs. Explanation follows:

But back to planting trees, here is a nice little tune on that very subject:

P.S. I have mentioned Francis previously in a 2018 Buzzyblog post that includes a great video interview with him (click here.)

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