The Tree in the Middle of the Road

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Not far from where I grew up in southwest Iowa, stands a 100 foot tall cottonwood tree.  You might be asking yourself, what is so special about a 100 foot tall tree?  Well read on and I shall explain. The story goes, that a surveyor, marking the line between Audubon and Cass counties in Iowa, had only a cottonwood sprout on hand to mark the location that the lines intersected.  Keep in mind the year was 1850, so apparently official marking sticks were in short supply. The sprout subsequently took root and grew into what is now a very large cottonwood tree.  Now what is unique about this story is not that a cottonwood tree grew from a sprout pushed into the soil 164 years ago.  It is that the location that these two lines made is now the intersection of two roads, and you guessed it, that big cottonwood tree stands smack dab in the middle of the intersection. The infamous tree in the middle of the road!

This tree was the thing of legends and mysteries to us young and impressionable kids back in the good old days.  It is quite an eerie site to see the top of this massive tree emerge above the road ahead of you, especially at night.  To top the hill and see a tree where one should not or has never seen one before is a bit disconcerting at midnight out in the country on a dark dirt road.  I’m sure many a spooky tale has been told going to or  from this spot.  It might have been a source of great trepidation for us, had it not on those occasions, been for our liquid courage.  I suppose over the years since then, we have not been the only teenagers to make the journey out to see this imposing landmark.  If you ever find yourself traveling on I-80 in Southwest Iowa, it is worth your time to pay a visit to the tree in the middle of the road. I think you will be glad you did.

I made this shot just a few minutes before sunrise recently.

 

DSC_8510_1_2 by Christopher L. Nelson.

 

  • Road trip!

  • Trevor

    One accident in the last 20 years or so, and it was a suicide.

  • Deb Claussen

    Christopher, that stick was put there by a ggg?g-grandfather of my sister-in-law, who resides with her family just north of Atlantic IA. Love your photo and article, but your name caught my attention. I am looking for descendents of Andrew & Myrtle (Kelley) Nelson of Anita Iowa. Any chance you might be kin?