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A 1,000-Year-Old Texas Oak Tree Stands Firm

A natural treasure is weathering the calamitous storm.

Tropical Storm Harvey has forced people from their homes and patients from hospitals, and turned quiet streets into turbulent torrents. For millions of residents, it has been terrifying, catastrophic, tragic. Amid this ongoing disaster, one iconic local inhabitant is standing its ground: the 1,000-year-old Big Tree at Goose Island State Park near Rockport.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Facebook page posted a photo of the tree on August 28, surrounded by the wreckage of its brethren. Younger trees, they wrote, might have perished in the calamitous storm—but “you don’t get old by being weak.” Texans seem to have found some solace in this 44-foot pillar of strength. Local resident Dana Brotherwood thanked them for putting the photo up, adding: “I know it’s silly but if he can make it, then no matter what else we as Texans can keep going. I am just so happy to see this.”

The Big Tree, as it’s usually known, is one of the oldest, most well known live oak trees in the United States. In its 1,000 years, it has survived hurricanes, fires, and even an 1864 Civil War battle that razed the rest of the town, Lamar, to the ground. The tree has its own dark history as well, as it has variously been associated with hangings, cannibalism, or pirates.

Despite technically being the second-oldest live oak in the state—dethroned in 2003 by the discovery of an older tree in Brazoria County—it is much beloved, and has inspired some fervent tributes from local poets, mostly written from the tree’s perspective. Mary Hoekstra, from Rockport, writes:

Cold fingers of ice have touched my heartwood.
Dust-dry days of sandstorms have scoured my skin.
Torrents of rain, driven by gales have rushed at me,
And I have swayed, but stayed unbroken.