The Small Hickory

by | Jun 7, 1998 | Potential, Self-Worth

A warm evening breeze caressed the expansive gardens at the old estate. The perfume of hundreds of rose blossoms, released by the sultry air, wafted up to flirt with a myriad of clustered purple wisteria blossoms hanging from the arches. From the top of an old poplar, a mockingbird sang his stolen song. The sinking sun kissed the treetops goodnight with a golden, shimmery glow, casting long, cooling shadows upon the sprawling, well manicured grounds.

Generations ago, much care had been taken in choosing just the right spot to plant each tree on the property. Plenty of space was provided for each tree, to allow full growth potential and a greater appreciation of each tree’s individual shape and growth habit. Mature hardwoods, such as beech, oak, maple, and butternut filled much of the landscape, with a collection of more exotic ornamentals and flowering trees adding their delicate touches.

Among these majestic spreading trees stood a young hickory. Beautifully shaped and well past the sapling stage, he was yet rather small in comparison with his companions. And he was very unhappy. Perhaps it was the heat, but on this particular evening, he could take it no longer. Feelings that had been festering inside him finally spilled out into a long trail of woe.

“I’m so tired of being small and insignificant,” he lamented to the kind, sagely old oak growing nearby. “I just don’t make a difference in the landscape and I have nothing to contribute!”

“You are just as important as the rest of us,” admonished the wise oak. “Without you, the whole dynamics of this section of the grounds would be changed.”

“I don’t believe that for a second,” retorted Small Hickory bitterly.

“Just look around! See that big stand of sugar maples over there? You yourself see the buckets hanging from their trunks early each spring. The owners of the estate do enjoy the rich syrup made from their own trees. And that sprawling oak over there — the shade he gives on a hot day is something to be coveted. The owners have chosen that spot for a handsome set of antique lawn furniture.”

“You are certainly accurate in your observations,” said the wise oak,


“Oh, I’m not done,” interrupted Small Hickory. “That is only the beginning. Look at those magnolias. Remember how stunning they were a few weeks ago? They were smothered in huge, fragrant blooms. You saw how everyone strolling the gardens stopped to admire them. Even now they are still beautiful with their dark green, waxy leaves. You know, too, they are more important because they were planted closer to the house. They make much more of an impact there than I do out here.”

Wise Oak took a breath to speak, but Small Hickory went on.

“And hickorys grow so slowly, it will be decades before I am huge and magnificent and good for something. Look at the size of the trunk on that beech over there. His bark is so smooth. See where two sweethearts carved their initials into his bark many years ago? My bark is too rough for that — and my trunk too little, too!”

“And that mockingbird over there,” Little Hickory continued; “every day he flits from treetop to treetop, putting on his show. He never stops in my branches to sing — I’m too short!”

As Small Hickory rambled on, Wise Oak noticed the owners of the estate strolling towards them, hand in hand. They chatted and laughed as they made their way across the lawn. The man held a picnic basket in his hand, and the woman had a chequered blanket draped over her arm.

Wise Oak interrupted Small Hickory and drew his attention to the couple who had chosen a large shady spot to spread their blanket. The man dubbed moisture from his forehead while the woman poured them both a glass of iced tea. From their basket, the man pulled out a pie, piled high with billowy meringue. He cut them both a generous wedge, and served his wife’s piece with a kiss. They sat close and slowly ate while enjoying the last gilded hues in the sky, talking and chuckling between bites.

Wise Oak smiled and sighed. Sagely as he was, he did have quite a soft, romantic heart. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

His voice trailed off in a dreamy tone.

“Oh, yeah, sure it’s wonderful!” retorted Small Hickory. “See, just another example of how insignificant I am.”

He didn’t like that the topic of conversation had turned away from his self pity. “Sure they are having a splendid evening together — in the huge shadow of that majestic tree! Just proves my point, it does! When I get bigger, maybe someone will enjoy my shade like that!”

“Small Hickory, look at your trunk,” said Wise Oak gently.

Taken aback by this strange request, all Small Hickory could do was say


“Look at your trunk,” Wise Oak repeated.

“Whatever for?” Small Hickory grumpily questioned.

“Just do it.” Wise Oak remained patient.

“OK, OK, I’ll do it!” Just to humour Wise Oak, Small Hickory looked down at his trunk.

“OK, I’m looking! Are you happy?”

“Now follow your shadow along the grass. What do you see?”

Small Hickory did as Wise Oak had requested, and to his amazement, the huge shady spot in which the couple sat was his own shadow!

“How can it be?” Small Hickory asked in astonishment.

“It is the setting sun shining on you that makes your shadow so large. You may be smaller than the other trees, but when you have the sun with you, your potential is greatly magnified, and your effect much more far reaching.”

Wise Oak yawned and contentedly watched the happy couple.

Small Hickory’s feelings of insignificance began to melt away as he pondered Wise Oak’s wisdom — “When The Son shines on us, our potential is greatly magnified…”

Terri Young


The Small Hickory