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Sage Grass & Cedars

by Darrell Thompson

From the poverty stricken ground
Nature’s beauty has abounded.
From rocky hill to sunny vale
Her melody has resounded.

For here rise the majestic cedars,
Treasured by the greatest of kings,
A shelter where the mourning dove
Can find rest for tired wings.

The vale wears a coat of orange sage,
The lowliest of all the grasses.
But its colors proudly wave
With every breeze that passes.

Where the sage grass grows among cedars
Is where my heart so often longs,
To see the sun lay down its head
And rise again in a new day’s dawn.

I’ll ask you not to lay me down
In a field of dried up bones,
Beneath the manicured grass
With its rows of shining stones.

Let me die just like I’ve lived.
And set my wounded spirit free
In a wind blown field of sage grass
Beneath a lone tall cedar tree.

As far back as I can remember, I have always had an appreciation for beautiful scenery. I can especially appreciate now those rural scenes that bring back certain memories of my childhood or other events with special meaning. When I was a child our family would often make a trip to town that was near by. The route took us by a pasture that was covered with a very thick stand of sage grass. Cedar trees were fairly thick in the fencerows and also scattered through the sage grass field as well. The scene was especially beautiful in the dead of winter when the sage grass was in its most brilliant orange color. The field of sage grass with the backdrop of cedars was a magnificent scene when glowing in the light of a late evening sun. I can remember thinking of how great it would be if I could someday own such a field of sage grass and cedars.

I maintained this positive image of sage grass until my first vocational agriculture class in high school. My vo-ag teacher, Mr. Posey Thompson (no relation), had some comments not so complimentary about the grass I was so fond of. He noted how prevalent sage was in the pastures in our community. I learned that sage grass was right at the bottom of the forage list as far as nutritional value is concerned. The best thing that Mr. Thompson could say about sage grass was that it was better than a snowball, but just barely.

I also learned why sage grass was so prevalent in many pastures. It was usually because of low levels of soil fertility combined with an acid condition or low pH. The good grasses had trouble staying alive much less producing forage and competing in this environment. The lowly sage grass though, could survive, thrive and take over in this poor soil.

Cedars have much in common with sage grass. A friend of mine has a farm with hundreds of cedar trees. He was in the co-op buying wood fence post for corner post for a fence he was building. I asked him why wasn’t he using some of the cedars growing on his farm. He explained that the cedars growing on his farm were not good because they didn’t have a solid, deep red heart. Growing conditions were too easy for these cedars. The quality of the wood was not a good as in their cousins growing in harsher conditions on poorer ground and rocky hillsides in conditions that other trees don’t handle as well as cedars.
That first vo-ag class may have dampened my view of sage grass but I gained an appreciation for cedar wood. I still have the cedar gun rack that I made in that class. Since that time I have worked with cedar on several projects. The mantle in our house was sawed out with a chainsaw from a cedar tree blown down on my grandfather’s farm. If King David of Bible times thought enough of cedar to have it imported to build his house, it must be good enough for me as well.

Sometimes it seems that I have a natural affinity with sage grass and cedar trees. Both species excel in conditions where many other species die or do good just to survive. When times are less than perfect for us, we would do well to learn a lesson from sage grass and cedars. 

Darrell Thompson is the manager of Lawrence County Exchange in Moulton.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006