Mixsonian Larry

Story of A Tree
A Deeply Rooted Story
by Larry Mixson

  Although this story is fictional, it is based on real people and events.  


   They tore down my grandmother’s house which had stood for over almost a hundred years. Grandpa started the building the house in 1924, Grandma in her reflecting upon the past wrote, “Wilbur and Gilbert hauled the lumber from the old Sistrunk place about 5 miles away with the horse and wagon.”  My father was born in the house in 1926. This story of the house as told from the perspective of a tree, a tree used in building the house, a tree Deeply Rooted.    

 Gosper Sistrunk (1907-1869) and his family migrated in 1830 from Barnwell County, South Carolina to the Florida Territory to what was later to become Marion County. Gosper served in the Florida Seminole Indian Wars, enlisting on Jan 2, 1835 serving in McLemore's Mounted Company, though 1936.  Twenty years later in 1850 the first of the three Mixson brothers, Charles Jones Mixson also moved from Barnwell County to Marion County Florida with his older brother James Joyce Mixson following a few years later.  Coming from the same county, it could reasonably be assumed that the Mixson and Sistrunk families knew of each South Carolina and when news of the Sistrunk’s success in Florida was heard by the Mixson brothers it influenced their decision to also move to Florida.    

Over the pursing years the Mixson’s and Sistrunk families in Florida became intertwined when in 1861, Gosper Sistrunk’s, son Henry Jackson Sistrunk married Georgia Ann Mixson#746, daughter of James Joyce Mixson#711.  Unfortunately, the Civil War began the following year and on May 3, 1862, Henry enlisted in Gainesville Florida joining the Confederacy.  Henry survived the war and upon return had four children, two daughters, Sinie and Georgia, and two sons, Gosper, named after his grandfather, and Herbert.   In 1885, Georgia’s younger sister Rosa Lee Mixson#749, who at the age of 35 was thought to become and old maid, married Tobias Anderson.  It was a short marriage for Rosa Lee died four years later and Tobias remarried to Fanny Belew having a daughter in 1901 who they named Rosalie after his first wife.  Rosalie then married Wilbur Darlington Mixson#842 who with his brother Gilbert used the wood from the old Sistrunk barn to build their house.  (read Roaslie's story)

The 1900 census recorded Gosper age 27, married and living in Flemington Florida where the Mixson’s had settled.  It is likely that Georgia’s father James Joyce Mixson, having considerable land holdings, had given Georgia and Henry Sistrunk a parcel of land some five miles from Wilbur and Rosalie’s land which was given to them by Rosalie’s own father Tobias. This story begins with the Gosper’s son Henry and his two sons, Gosper and Herbert on their farm in Flemington.

Eagles Nest

  I was a tree, a southern longleaf pine with some eighty rings upon my girth in the forest with my sister trees, some older, some younger. Our mother tree stood some distance away.  She was a magnificent tree, towering above those children that sprung from her seed around her.  Mother, with her towering height, was honored by being selected by the eagles to build their nest in her topmost branches, an honor giving only the tallest and strongest of trees.      

   Over many the cycles of the sun, mother whispered in the wind to her children, telling us stories of times of rain, times of wind, times of fire, times of draught, always encouraging us to grow strong, to endure the winters, to bask in the warmth of the summers.  Over the years we trees would watch the birds that flew amongst our branches and the animals upon the ground around us. On occasion the odd two-legged animal mother said were called men would walk, hunt or sometimes camp under our branches. They did no harm as we stood watch over them but with each passing year, we saw them less and less.

 It was a slow-paced life, adding a ring to our girth each cycle of the sun.  We were in no hurry, for we were deeply rooted, only hoping one day to grow strong and tall as mother.  Not all of the children survived, some succumbing to wind, lighting, insects or disease.  But that is the cycle of life, we who lived on were thankful of those that fell for the nourishment their bodies provided as they returned to the earth.

  One day our peaceful existence was disturbed, men came, a different kind of men we had seen before, men with blades of metal.  They hacked, they sawed, my mother fell, they cut off her branches and the horses dragged her away.  For several cycles of the sun my sister trees and I, through our roots, through the wind blowing through our leaves whispered to each other about what we had seen, what happened to mother, where was she taken?  What would happen to the eagles?

The Sistrunks

   Henry Sistrunk had only been married seven months to his wife Georgia Mixson when he joined the Confederacy and went off to war. In 1865, with the war over he returned to his wife with little more than the clothes on his back. To help them, Georgia’s father, James Joyce Mixson gave them a parcel of land in Flemington. It was good land but being heavily wooded was not ready for farming. The higher areas of their property were covered in old growth pine, oak, hickory and sweet gum trees while the lower areas swampy areas contained cedar and cypress trees.  Regardless of where or what type of tree, they all were heavily draped in Spanish moss.  Farming required farmland so Henry set about cutting down trees and clearing land for a garden and using the lumber from the trees to build his house.  It was hard work with trees being felled and cut into lumber by hand but with hard work in time Henry and Georgia built a house, had land cleared for a garden and by 1890 had three daughters and two sons. 

In 1895 needing a new barn for the horses, hay, and farm instruments, Henry sent his sons Gosper and Herbert into the forested part of their property to cut and bring back some pine trees to build the barn.  The sons were excited, this being the first time their father trusted them for such a task without him being there to tell them what to do. They gathered their axes and saws, hitched the horse to a log puller and marched off into the forest.  The sons were well familiar with the forest having hunted in it since they were little boys and Gosper turned to Herbert and said, “I know just the tree.”  Herbert knew the tree that Gosper was talking about, they all knew of the tree, it was the biggest, tallest tree, the one with the eagle’s nest.  They knew it would make their father proud to bring back such a tree glorious tree and they set at it with their axes and saws.  As the cut into it, the tree begin to lean, started to creek, the boys stepped back as the tree slowly begin to fall making thunderous sound as it crashed to the ground.   The sons stood there for a moment at what they had done in the silence then whooped wildly and set about chopping off the branches making it ready to take back.  It was harder than they thought, such a big tree was a real struggle for the single horse to drag back, so they cut off a section the horses could pull, hitched them up and returned to the farm.

  When they arrived back to the farm, they were exhausted but were excited about the praise they expected from their father but when they arrived, they were surprised their father did not seem happy at all.  The sons paused and saw their father fuming and when he said in a quiet but stern voice,  “What is that?”  and the eldest son replied, “A tree for the barn.”  And the father said, “We can’t use that, it’s too big.”, and turned and walked back into the house.   The sons were stunned and turned to look to each other.  The youngest son asked, “What are we to do with it?” and the eldest replied “Haul it out back and leave it.”

  For several months the father did not mention the tree and the sons didn’t ask about it or the barn.  They were particularly helpful and obedient though. On night the following spring the father said at the dinner table, “You know we still need that barn.”  The older son held his breath for what might come next while the youngest son let out a slight gasp.  The father then went on to lecture about the size of trees needed to build a barn.  The work it would take to get cut them down, drag them out of the forest, scrape off the bark, take the hewing axes and two-man saws to make the beams and planks needed for a barn.  He then looked each son into the eye and asked, “Do you understand?”  They said in unison “Yes Papa” and the father replied, “Well I need you to go get some trees for a barn.”

The Tree

I had grown another ring when the men came again with their metal blades and cut down a sister tree, then another sister.  The youngest of our sisters were simply trampled or cut and left lying on the ground.  As the men approached me, I knew my time had come, as they cut into me tears of sap flowed freely as I fell.  My beautiful branches were cut off and the horses dragged me away.   I felt naked without my branches and was ashamed as I was hauled under the canopy of the forest and past other trees.  At the men’s farm I was put into a pile with my sister trees.  It felt unnatural to feel their trunks against my own for, other than slight brushes of leaves in the wind from those closest to me, I had never felt the touch of another tree.

As I laid on the ground, I watched the men take as my sister trees were taken from the pile, striped of their bark, chopped, sawed and hewed into pieces and put into a strange stack the men had devised.   My turn came and they did the same, I had never felt so cold as I did that first day without my bark, the wind blowing upon my inner flesh.    My pieces were added to the strange pile, some touching, others apart.  I could feel my sister trees I rested upon and those that rested upon me, but we could not whisper to each other as we did in the forest, for we did not have our leaves in the wind and roots  deep into the ground to whisper with.

The Barn

  In time I adapted to my new life, not growing, not dying, but being part of what I learned the men called a barn.  Sometimes I thought myself lucky for I had one side of me left untouched though without bark.  It faced the outside of the barn where I could feel the sun, experience the wind and the rain and over time turned gray like the beards of old man that came into the barn.  The years passed, the men came and went, putting animals, wagons, plows, and other instruments in the barn.  I think I served them well as a barn but in time the men stopped coming. The instruments they put in the barn begin to rust, some of my sisters at the bottom of the barn begin to decay.  In some ways I thought they were the lucky ones, letting go becoming one with the earth.  But I stood on as the barn begin to sag, rain seeped in, wind slipped through the open door.  It was a peaceful quite time after the men stopped coming, the grass grew high in the field, mice found shelter in the barn.  One day an eagle came and landed on the roof of the barn, then flew down to a giant old log that had lain at the back all these years  then spying something flew swooped down and carrying away some small animal it had caught.     

  I was content with the passing of the cycles of the sun when two young men and a young woman came.  They walked about inside and out of the barn pointing to one piece and another saying what my timbers could be used for, a beam, a post and so on .  They tapped on me saying how strong and sturdy I was. They attached ropes to me and other timbers, attached the other end to horses and pulled the us apart onto the ground.  If would have had the sap of my youth in me I would have cried for it felt so good to touch the ground that had been held so far from me but it was short lived.   The loaded me and my fellow timbers onto a wagon and as we traveled down the road I admired the many tall oaks, hickory and pines that lined the side of the roads remembering the times I had stood as such.

The House

Morris and Arnold in front of the houseAdrian and Morris in front of the house, 1929

The wagon pulled to a stop, the men got off, and took us from the wagon and placed us on the ground.  Taking me from the ground first, the men cut off some from one end and then they placed me horizontally with each end on a pile of rocks and I became the foundation beam.  Over the course of the next few days they constructed a building over me using my fellow timbers we became what they called a house.   Down underneath the house, I would not again see the direct light of the sun for a hundred years.  

The following week a young man named Wilbur his wife Rosalie, son Adrian and daughter Myrtice moved into the house.  Although I could not see them I could hear and feel the vibrations of their feet as they walked in the house above me and over the following years I felt the children grow as the thumping of their feet grew louder on the planks above me.   Over the years some family left, and others came, sometimes with new young ones of their own and I laid there under the house listening to them on the floor above me. 

Over time, I grew a fondness for them  and was proud to serve them as I laid there under the house.  It was not always easy, the bugs were always testing me, boring holes into me but my sap of my inner heart wood held them at bay.   I did begin to sag a little in the middle but considering I was over two hundred years old, I was still strong.  

Families came and families went over the following years, some making additions to the house, then one day they stopped coming.   New trees and brush sprung up around the house and I laid there at its foundation.  Over time the house above me begin to decay, the newer additions on the outside crumbling first, a leak here and there letting in the wind and water, but I still stood underneath the center of the house strong and steadfast.   The sound of something crumbling inside, or the patter of water from the leaking roof on the floor brought back memories of  the footsteps of  the families I held over the years.  Sometimes I longed to just to lie in the forest and feel the rain upon, me, the earth under me as I lay on the ground.  It would have been my natural way as a tree, growing old and then in some storm in my old age get blown down to lie on the ground decaying over time but providing nourishment to my own young.

The Bench

  The Bench

It had been many years since people had lived in the house which was slowly crumbling above me when one day I heard a deep rumbling sound, the earth shook, the house above me was torn apart exposing me to the sun for the first time in a hundred years and its warmth felt good.  The feeling was short lived when a giant metal machine reached out and grabbed me, lifted me up and dropping me on the ground in a pile of other timbers torn from the house, a few of which were from my sister trees from so long ago.  After a short time one of the men came over grabbed me, picked me up and carried me over to where two other men were standing and tossed me on the ground and then after a few words spoken between me I was once again picked up and put into the back of a wagon that had no horses to pull it, they called it a truck. After traveling a short time, I was taken from the truck and place on the ground where I was content to lay there feeling the ground under me once again. But that was not to be, the man picked me up one day and took me inside to what appeared to be a barn for it was filled with tools and a wagon but no horses.  The man laid me on the bench and scraped and cleaned the dirt from my sides then attached legs made from one of my sister trees and the man called it a bench.  As bench I now stand outside where I now can feel the sun, rain and wind that I had missed the past hundred years as a beam under the house. 


   Grandma's house being torn down

 In April of 2021 I was driving in the country and I drove by Grandpa and Grandma Mixson’s old house and found the gate was open and what looked like some work being done behind the house.  I stopped, got out of my truck, and was walking toward the gate when another truck came up with three men.  One man got out and came up to me and I explained that the house was my grandfather's house and was where my father was born and I asked what they were doing.  He explained that someone bought the property and they were tearing the house down and said I could come in the gate and look around before they continued.     I looked around a bit and saw a few old boards from the house sitting aside and I asked the man about them.   He said he was surprised to find that several of the larger floor beams looked to be hand hewed, but the house didn’t look that old.  A light went off in my head and I told him how my grandfather and his brother got the boards from an old barn down the road and hauled it to the house site in a wagon to build the house in 1921.  The barn being much older was built from hand hewed timber.  I asked the man if I could have a couple and he said yes and he helped me put them in the back of my truck.  It was from this log I made the bench. 

Updated: 07-03-2022