LANSING-One of Lansing’s most recognizable landmarks has had a rough last few years.
It’s been pounded by the weather, covered in flood waters a time or two, burned, slashed, spray painted and even cut with a chainsaw.
But the towering sycamore tree that sits alongside McNeil Road is holding on, at least for now.
That massive tree stands on a grassy section of creek bank – it appears to be owned by the heirs of Bernard Miller – near the confluence of South Big Horse Creek and the North Fork of the New River. It sits just off the dusty gravel covered McNeil Road, where the road crosses the creek with the help of a low water bridge.
It’s provided shade to countless generations of fishermen, according to Civitas Media Regional Publisher Rex Goss, who said the deep water just in front of the old sycamore is heavily favored by sucker fishermen each spring.
That’s a fact backed up by the Chairman of the Ashe County Board of Education, Charles King. He said if the weather’s nice and someone isn’t sitting beneath the tree, something’s probably wrong.
“Oh every spring, that’s where they start the sucker fishing,” King said. “Anywhere the creeks intersect, that’s where you find suckers. Especially when they’re leaving the river to go up the creeks, and that’s where Horse Creek enters the river. It’s perfect for it.”
And King said the tree was once and anchor point for a swinging bridge that crossed the creek, though that span was destroyed by the massive Flood of 1940 and never rebuilt. The thick steel cable that provided support for that bridge can still be seen wrapped around the sycamore, however.
What’s also clear is that the tree has been abused by some of the people who have taken advantage of its shade over the years. Like the side of an aging building or a dark railroad tunnel tucked away from prying eyes, the tree has been the target of graffiti, according to Lansing residents who asked to remain anonymous. Some of that haphazard spraypainted lettering is still visible on the tree’s exterior.
Much of the base of the tree facing the creek is hollow, but a huge portion of the same section has been blackened by fire. It’s unclear if that was done accidentally or on purpose, but the first 15-feet of the tree has been burned badly.
And at least one local resident, who also wished to remain anonymous, said someone took a chainsaw to the tree in the middle of the night last spring. It’s unclear why that was done, though the scar of that battle is still visible along the base of the tree.
“It’s obviously gone through a lot over the years,” said one person who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being targeted by the same vandals that have hit the tree so hard. “It bloomed last year but then it was cut by the chainsaw and I just can’t believe it’s still alive. Don’t know why someone would go out of their way to destroy something as beautiful as that tree.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.