by Sharon Stevens
Recently I volunteered at Llano Cemetery in Amarillo, Texas on behalf of the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, “Cemetery by Twilight Tour”. I was assigned to share the story of the Wolflin’s, who were a long standing, dedicated family from our area. I researched at the libraries and on-line references to follow their story, and received a great deal of information from Christine Wyly’s book, “Amarillo’s Historic Wolflin District”.
In her book there are several photos and notations concerning the Wolflin Estates Development and the Siberian Elms Charles Wolflin purchased, planted and watered over the years. Because of time limits I didn’t have a chance beforehand to see for myself what the area looked like, but after the tour was over and I packed up my patchwork quilt, hat, gathered my handouts, loaded up my car and headed out.
I admit I was feeling a tad down, not depressed or grieved, just low. For no reason whatsoever other than I wished I had done a better job in sharing my stories.
The sun was just beginning to sink as I made my way across town. When I found the street signs for the neighborhood I just picked one at random and slowly drove up and down, back and forth, gazing at the beauty before me. In my talk at the gravesite I had told how Mr. Wolflin had designed the landscaping and wanted the streets to be extra wide, but nothing had prepared me to actually see how the design plan translated from blueprint to reality right before me eighty years later. I wished I had the words to express what I felt as I drove. To actually see the width from curb to curb, and to gaze at the majestic homes was breathtaking. But it was the trees, those wonderful Siberian Elms still straight and massive, perfectly spaced, their limbs embracing the panhandle sky that truly tugged at my heart.
If only I could stop and take a picture, get out and wander down the sidewalk to my hearts content, something to take back with me to gaze at when I needed a boost. But I also knew a photograph would not do justice to the sentiment behind the image. And then I also had to worry about the families behind the security alarms of their homes who would not understand someone caressing their trees. I can only imagine trying to explain that to the police called to investigate.
After a moment or two it hit me. It was the memory I saw within my heart and soul that would carry me forever. In my minds eye I could go back and picture the Wolflin’s as they researched the best trees to withstand the panhandle weather and winds, could imagine as they ordered from a nursery, could visualize when they came in on the train or were trucked in, and as the workers unloaded and carried them across town to their new home away from home.
What a sight this must have been to behold! Just think of what this means! To dig a speck of earth, and then to plant every one of those one thousand trees, deep and true, then to place sod around the base to keep them safe. Then to water every sapling every evening. What a labor of love for the family to watch as the young stalks were drenched, watching to make sure they were growing straight, and actually put their hands down in the soil to make sure it was packed and not disturbed.
It didn’t take me long to realize the Wolflins may have paid for and planted the trees in the Woflin Estates, but as God and John Wayne are my witness, they must have had so much fun to have discussed it with family and friends…what to order, how to plant, how to get them here, and where they needed to be set out. And who was the work force that worked so hard to maintain these treasures? The W.P.A. during the depression and war years were just a few of the men who planted those trees into the ground. What about their memories. Don’t forget about the architects, the landscapers, the design team who brought all this together. There is no question the Wolflin’s had to have secured financing for the project with advice from those around them, those in business as well as their inner circle. What a gamble this must have been during those years and the years that followed. Someone, somewhere had to nurture this thought and these saplings so they would grow to survive.
In my Webster’s Dictionary from the 1890‘s, Nurture is defined as “That which nourishes such as food or diet” or “That which promotes growth; education; instruction.”
Just as water, sun and the earth had nourished those elms to grow, all of it came together to nourish my soul. I might never speak of the Wolflins again or ponder the ills of the universe. But for one moment in time I witnessed a beauty and simplicity to sustain me whenever I needed strength. The homes, the trees, the wide streets were witness to a community that gathered together and shared the beauty of the residents.
So many times as writers we are faced with life that gets in the way not only of writing, but those life moments that interfere deep in our gut. Unseen forces try to pull us away from our deepest passions. There is no question that even though we face tragedy and hardship, economic worries and family troubles we can still enjoy friends and kin, peace and freedom, and above all the simple expressions of neighbors around us. These things are just the as welcome as the shade that a Siberian Elm still provides.
Sometimes we just need to be reminded of those people who have touched their name to an idea, a thought, a sweetness. This was just another reminder deep in my heart and soul that someone, somewhere nurtured not only the trees, but they also nurtured a dream, a vision, an inspiration.
Eighty years later this nurtured ME.