Here’s a photo of the old Clifton Place, the 30 acre farm my parents bought when they started farming in Reedley in 1958, the year before I was born. It was an older farm house on Road 52, about 3 miles south of Reedley. Road 52 was a small road then, with a irrigation ditch on the east side where we’d swim in the hot summers. The two tall cedar trees were soon cut down–they were messy and attracted birds that fed on the fruit in the orchards. The lone palm stayed, and was a permanent fixture throughout my life. It was like the guiding star for our family, always marking the spot where we lived.
As we grew up, the farm was our playground. We knew every inch of that property, following our dad around as he worked. We could always find our way back home because of that palm tree. We depended on it.
In 1967 the old farm house was torn down and the new house was built. The palm stood steadfast and sure.
One year dad built a large dog house for Shep and Baer, our 2 German shepherds. It matched our home. The dogs didn’t like it, it was too spacious to stay warm, so dad had a good idea. He expanded the dog house and turned it into a tree house for the palm tree. Then with the forklift, he hoisted it up and bolted it to the trunk 12 feet up from the ground.
That tree house was fun. We could fit 2 or 3 sleeping bags in it. It had a balcony facing the road where we could sit and eat snacks while watching the cars go by. A trumpet vine later grew up the trunk and surrounded the tree house with orange trumpet blooms.
We loved this majestic palm. It oversaw our work and always guided us home.
Whenever we gave anyone directions to find our farm, we always told them to look for the palm. It was the only one like it for miles around and it marked our spot.
This week Eric posted pictures of our palm from last September. They made me cry. Some powers that be decided the palm was a danger to the power lines. It was too tall. It might fall over. It might cause damage. It had to come down.
He wrote, “On Sept 16, 2021 a PG&E crew came and cut down our landmark palm tree.” They showed up with trucks and machines with sharp blades. They beheaded our faithful palm, then cut it in sections, from the top down. A brutal death. A heartbreaking death. We’ve lost our farm’s guiding star.
It was a heartbreaking day. I feel unsure about finding my homeplace ever again.