Earth Day 2022: Woodman, Spare That Tree!

« Trees cause more pollution than automobiles. » — Ronald Reagan

After some of the time-consuming epics we’ve been running lately, I’d been looking for a short piece to help me catch my breath; as it happens, I’d been saving a special piece for this day and occasion.

I’ve always much admired any well-done bit of scientific popularization, and given people’s abysmal ignorance, and even worse, their utter lack of curiosity on the subject of trees (among others!), this one stands out as increasingly timely and poignant. Just yesterday, I stumbled upon an alarming article from Smithsonian Magazine pointing out that the hard lessons of the Dust Bowl were either not learned or simply forgotten. So it goes…

This strip originally saw print in Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact vol. 16 no. 5 (Nov. 10, 1960, George A. Pflaum), written and illustrated by TC mainstay Frank Tytus Huffman (1919-1986), who ably doles out both fun and facts.

The strip was reprinted in TCOFAF vol. 23 no. 6 (Nov. 16, 1967) with improved colouring, so it’s the version you see here.

The title of this post quotes (with a slight spelling change) a once-famous poem by George Pope Morris (1802-1864), which goes:

Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I’ll protect it now.
‘twas my forefather’s hand
That placed it near his cot;
There, woodman, let it stand,
Thy axe shall harm it not!

That old familiar tree,
Whose glory and renown
Are spread o’er land and sea,
And wouldst thou hew it down?
Woodman, forbear thy stroke!
Cut not its earthbound ties;
0 spare that aged oak,
Now towering to the skies!

When but an idle boy
I sought its grateful shade;
In all their gushing joy
Here too my sisters played.
My mother kissed me here;
My father pressed my hand. . .
But let that old oak stand!

My heartstrings round thee cling
Close as thy bark, old friend;
Here shall the wild bird sing,
And still thy branches bend.
Old tree! the storm still brave;
And, woodman, leave the spot . . .
While I’ve a hand to save,
Thy axe shall harm it not.

« Now why should I spare that tree, Kotter? What’s in it for me? »

For further arboreal reading, check out our earlier post, Earth Day With Jim Woodring and Friends.


2 thoughts on “Earth Day 2022: Woodman, Spare That Tree!

  1. nealumphred April 22, 2022 / 17:46

    Holy Friday Night Fishsticks! I was raised Catholic and don’t recall Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact at all! But then, I did not attend a Catholic school, where they were primarily distributed.

    I just checked out the story “This Godless Communism” from 1961 and that has got to be the blandest Reed Crandall art that I have ever seen!


    • gasp65 April 22, 2022 / 20:00

      Hi Neal! I missed it too growing up, first by being too young, second by not being an Anglophone (though I did grow up Catholic and even attended a seminary). I did sporadically encounter the odd issue in the 70s and on, and when I finally got around to reading them, I was generally quite impressed… despite my incipient atheism.

      As for “This Godless Communism”, it’s the most blatant instance of rampant intellectual dishonesty I’ve seen in their pages. Not only do they mischaracterize the commies’ motives and actions, they do a thorough job of whitewashing the Catholic church’s less-than-exemplary behaviour over that period. The Holy Roman Church was pretty steadfastly on the side of the Fascists throughout the 20th century.

      On the plus side, Crandall’s done far better work for the magazine, including some rare humorous material. Check out this double-spread cover, for instance:


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