Friday, April 18, 2008
They Cut Down The Tinney Pear Tree
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TINNEY TALK, Observations by Joe Dan Boyd
AMBROSE TINNEY WAS A PLANTER in every sense of the word. He came to Texas in 1883 from Alabama, heart of the Old South, where tillers of the soil were less likely to be called farmers than planters, a noun dripping with descriptive dash and not at all reminiscent of American Gothic, Grant Wood’s pitchfork painting. Above all, Ambrose Tinney was a planter of cotton, reverently dubbed, by 1940s author Ben Robertson, a heaven-given crop.
“AMBROSE TINNEY OWNED LOTS OF LAND and had enough kids to work it,” quipped one of my cousins, the late Jimmy Joe Newton, a great-grandson of Ambrose. Residential headquarters for the Ambrose Tinney farm was an unpainted monument to frontier architecture, located at the intersection of what is now FM 312 and County Road 4620.
IN THE NORTHEAST QUADRANT of that unpaved intersection, dusty in summer, muddy in winter, Ambrose planted his orchard, just a few yards from the sprawling farmhouse, where my brother Tommy and I were the last children to be raised after the death of our mother, Dolly. There, Tommy and I feasted annually on small but sweet apples, firm but substantial Indian peaches, tart red-skinned plums and unbelievably delicious golden pears in a majestic tree that towered above all others in Ambrose’s now long-gone traditional farm orchard.
WHEN FULL OF LEAF AND FRUIT, the Tinney Pear Tree provided sustenance, shade and solitude for two young boys who liked to climb trees, discuss dreams of days yet unborn and bask in the nuances of a Nature that we probably then took for granted as something of a divine birthright. It was as if the tree gathered up our thoughts, and drew up our souls for us, as in Daniel Beaudry’s great poem, Breath. It was a time when all seemed right with the world, thanks to the foresight of Ambrose Tinney, our planter-grandfather.
WE HAD NOT YET LEARNED TO APPRECIATE A JOHNNY APPLESEED approach to life that was inborn with our grandfather, who died long before either of us was born. In time, we came to understand how much his planter’s vision embraced our community, and our personal lives: Elsewhere on County Road 4620, Ambrose had planted both the school, Vernon, and the church, Tinney Chapel, that would shape our destiny.