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The Kid Tree, By Shereen Motarjemi

Aug 27, 2017 04:06PM ● By Elena Hutslar

Initials cut into bark like hieroglyphic messages from years past.

The Kid Tree                                     

By Shereen Motarjemi


In the bank of a creek just off Pleasant Hill Road stands an old tree bearing evidence of visits by children over the years. There are dozens of etchings and initials carved into the bark in numerous styles. This was a popular kid place! 


Many of the carvings date back to the 1960s and ‘70s, when Pleasant Hill was more rural and children freely roamed its creeks. Kids from that era knew that creeks are special places. There are pollywogs to catch and rock dams to build. There are trees to climb and critters to watch. But one of a creek’s greatest draws is what is absent from it: grownups. It’s one of the few places where a kid can be free.


“Meet at the tree,” was all a kid had to do to find friends in those days. Once kids are hanging out together, someone is bound to try carving initials into a tree. It’s easy to look at the tree now and understand that these kids etched their names in order to announce to the world:  “I AM ME and I AM HERE!” That’s understandable. After all, aren’t we doing exactly the same thing nowadays on Facebook?


In those days, parents were less concerned that children were out of earshot the whole day. Moms were confident their kids would be home when they got hungry. In 1968, Joel Primrose lived on Mercury Way near Grayson Creek and spent his summer days “from 6:30am to sunset,” exploring the fields, orchards and creeks in Pleasant Hill. Joel loved the outdoors, but that’s not all he loved. His heart belonged to beautiful Katie Clark with the freckles and dark hair. He tried to do all the things an 11-year-old could do in order to woo his beloved, like carrying her books home and carving their names into the tree. But Katie’s heart could not be warmed, and she rejected his overtures again and again. Today, they are both in their late 50s, happily married to other people. Even though they lost touch decades ago, each remembers the other from that time in 5th grade when Joel secretly carved “Joel LOVES Katie” into an old buckeye tree next to a creek.


If you would like to see the tree for yourself or share your creek memories, please feel free to email me at [email protected]