I became known as the little boy who could draw a perfect pine cone. I didn’t find out about my nickname until many years later. I was just a scared 8-year-old boy who started taking private art lessons. The rest of the class was filled with middle-age housewives who wanted to explore their talent in art. I was very intimidated by them and they were inquisitive as to why I was there.
One of our first projects was to draw a pine cone. If you have ever carefully studied a pine cone, you realize it is not the easiest thing to draw. It has many layers, points and ragged edges. We picked up our charcoal sticks and began to draw. Slowly, everyone’s pine cones began to emerge on our pads. I didn’t think anything about it and we moved on to the next assignment.
Many years later in the height of my television career, a couple of my former classmates bumped into me at a function where I was speaking. They approached me and told me how they felt all those years ago when they compared their pine cone drawings to mine. They had asked each other, “Who is this little boy who can draw a perfect pine cone when we can’t?” We all had a good laugh.
I don’t know what happened to the original pine cone drawing but, over the years, I’ve drawn several more. It’s not just the pine cones I like. It’s pine trees in particular. Straight up and tall they grow with dark green needles instead of normal leaves. I love the smell of freshly cut pine wood and am thrilled to live in a house with heart pine floors.
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We also use pine bark and pine straw in our flower beds. We have collected several antique pine pieces of furniture. I suppose it would be safe to assume I have a great affection and appreciation for pine trees. As the dog days of summer transition into autumn, the pine straw and cones have started to fall to the ground.
The other morning when I was headed to the gym, the temperatures were a bit cooler with lower humidity and a slight nip in the air. The sky was bluer than blue and a group of tall pine trees begged my attention. I took in a deep breath, paused, looked high up into the trees and enjoyed the beauty of the pines. I couldn’t help but remember another time when I was a child staring up into the pines.
I was playing outside when I heard one of our cats screaming. At first, I couldn’t find her but soon realized she had climbed a pine tree and was perched on a high branch. I ran in to get Mother, who realized it was our pregnant cat and was very concerned. Mother, who was a quick thinker and problem solver, immediately called the fire department and found a small box and padded it with an old towel. Right before our eyes, the cat began delivering the kittens.
Mother stood at the base of the tree and, one by one, caught the new born cats in the padded box. Finally, the firemen arrived and used one of their tall ladders to rescue the cat. The mama cat was soon reunited with her kittens. Mother had saved the day as she did so many times and in doing so taught us life lessons by her actions.
I guess my nickname was appropriate. All my life I’ve lived under the shade of tall and regal pine trees. I wish I still had the first drawing I ever did of a pine cone. But, what I do have is a cool nickname and all those wonderful pine-themed memories. Pine trees and I will always be close. Maybe that’s why I like to draw them so much.
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