Saturday, February 6, 2010

Can Oklahoma Find A Use For The Red Cedar?

Ok, I will admit up front that I have a strong opinion about Oklahoma's Eastern Red Cedar trees.  I am a tree lover by nature.  Growing up on a ranch, I was surrounded by wonderful people whose main goal in life seemed to be to cut down the forests to make room for more fields.  Yes, I protested loudly and lost every single argument, but I did what I could.  I guess I never lost the fervor.

Surprisingly, my cowboy family didn't seem to mind the little Red Cedars that would spring up here and there - they were more focused on the hated Bois d' Arc trees.  The Bois d' Arcs' thorns would tear at the cowboys and their horses as they rode trails, and the fruit of the tree, the big horseapples, would trip a horse if he didn't look where he was going and stepped on one.  Plus, the wood of the Bois d' Arc was strong and hard, making for terrific fence posts that are still standing on my family's place today - some are sixty years old.

My history with Red Cedar has everything to do with Christmas.  Before my mother fell in love with artificial trees, in mid-December, my dad and I would traipse out to find the perfect Red Cedar for our Christmas tree.  We always chose trees that were too big, according to my mother, but they always looked good.  Maybe it wasn't the perfect Montana pine, but it was definitely Oklahoma, and suited our tastes.  The Red Cedar was the Christmas tree for my grandparents and their parents before them.  Readily available and free for the taking,  I thought they were top-notch.  Still do.

Now I'm hearing that our Red Cedars are considered a scourge for several reasons.  Their wood is oily and they go up like fireworks when they are hit by a spark.  They multiply like crazy, accounting for fields full of little Red Cedars.  Many farmers and ranchers consider them to be weeds.  The State is considering declaring some sort of Cedar Emergency to rid our state of the pests.

Well, fair enough.  I understand the fire hazard, as well as the objections of the farmers.  But could we search a little harder for a solution to the problem?  We have a little business making writing pens and other wood objects from trees in various states, and the best-selling Oklahoma pen by far is the Red Cedar. Bois d' Arc and walnut pens are easily outdistanced by the fragrant and beautiful Red Cedar.  Its wood is absolutely gorgeous.  Have you ever seen a Red Cedar bedroom suite?  Once you do, you won't forget it.  But many of us don't seem to appreciate Red Cedar wood for anything except cedar chests.

I think we have a great cash crop in Red Cedar wood.  If we are going to destroy the trees anyway, why not help our economy while we're at it?  Promote the wood and products made from it.  See what the big furniture makers think.  At least give it a try.  Systematic destruction of this beautiful wood seems unnecessarily silly and rash.  Do we still have an Oklahoma Department of Agriculture?  One would think that they would be interested in promoting the best interests of Oklahoma agriculture, but then, maybe not.

Anyway, I guess that's my rant for the year.  What do you think?  All comments are welcome!!

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