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Sun, May 26

Witness to history: Once majestic tree that towered over Jerome will soon come down (with video)

George Hall plays his trombone to his tree Thursday in Thursday Jerome. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

George Hall plays his trombone to his tree Thursday in Thursday Jerome. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

The hills above Jerome rang out with the sound of George Hall’s trombone Thursday.

He was paying tribute to a mighty Jerome resident.

Well, actually, it was a tree, but it was mighty to have survived a century of smelter pollution and frenzied deforestation in Jerome during the town’s mining era.

Hall has accepted the job of cutting the tree down.

He chose to play music that was written for the poem: “Trees,” by Joyce Kilmer as tourists walked below in front of the Haunted Hamburger. He said he is a life-long trombone player who played in Ringling Brothers Circus and Ice Capades

Hall doesn’t know exactly how old the tree is or whether it’s the oldest in Jerome. His best educated guess is that the tree is 100 years old. He’ll be able to make an exact or near-exact estimate on its age once it’s cut down and he counts its tree rings.

The tree is on property owned by his wife, Louise Giusto.

“It’s not an entirely sad story,” Hall explained. He said there is an old Irish legend that wood nymphs who live in trees are only captive in trees while the tree is alive. When a tree dies, the wood nymphs are “free to leave.”

“So it’s not just the death of a tree, it’s also the freedom for a wood nymph.”

Part of the tree will be sliced up and made into pieces of “gratuity wood” because everyone has something to be thankful for, he said,  

Each piece of wood will have an imprinted “saying” about being grateful burned into it.

Hall said he cut another tree down next to this tree 10 years ago, and by counting the rings he determined it was 75 years old. “And this tree that we are taking down is about twice the diameter of that one.”

Hall said the tree is “at the end of its life cycle.” A number of years ago, the tree was attacked by bark beetles and the tree service warned Hall five years ago that the tree would not survive because of its age.

He believed that the tree outlived all the other trees in Jerome because the people who lived around it loved it so much and watered it all the time.

But now, the cummulative impacts of drought and bark beetle infestation has resulted in the tree shedding limbs, he pointed out.

Hall said he will have a priest say a mass for the safety and protection of the crew of tree workers who will have to scale the 50- to 60-foot tree. It’s located just below the painted “J” in Jerome, but just above the “Surgeon’s House” property across SR89A from the Haunted Hamburger.

Hall said because they were mining underground, trees were also cut down to shore up underground mines.

He doesn’t have an exact day they will cut the tree down because of the recent rain, but it will be soon.

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