So we waited, as anxiously as the prophet Elijah, for the first sign of rain, and when at last the brassy heavens veiled themselves in cloud about the middle of August, we started off after trees - not the pampered darlings of a nursery, used to water and rich soil, but the hardy roadside denizens of dry pastures and sandhills. We picked out the driest and sandiest spots to dig them from, so that if their roots discovered nothing to feed upon in their new locality, they would, from long habit, have got used to short commons, and could adapt themselves to the situation.
Before going out we had the men dig holes over the surface of the side hill with a grub-hoe, banking up the thin soil at the lower side of the holes with sods, so as to make little dams to retain the water; in these holes we set the trees we selected, which were not over three feet high, but stocky and well rooted. When possible we took up the dirt with them, keeping their roots moist, and well shaded in the cart, and no more were brought at a time than could be set in two or three hours. After they were all planted, with great labor and trouble, we gave our nursery a thorough watering, and then, except on two or three subsequent occasions, when things looked really desperate from drought, they were left to take their chance. Luckily that year the rains began to fall soon after they were set, and the autumn was a very wet one, so that a good many of the little trees were living in the spring; but another batch, set in the latter part of May the following year, owing possibly to the very heavy rains of 1888 and 1889, did so much better, that we shall always be disposed to give the preference to spring planting in the future.
Of some one hundred and fifty Pines set upon this barren northerly hillside, under these cruel conditions, about eighty survive, a few of which are still leading a precarious existence, while the greater part are flourishing bravely, making a fine show in winter against the snow. In summer they shade so completely into the unkempt green background of the hill that, unless seen in profile, they are barely visible, even when five feet high, and very bushy. Still farther back we have tried setting out very small Pines, and have sown the ground in autumn with countless Pine-seeds, and nuts of all sorts, which come up satisfactorily enough, and do bravely for a month or two, but suffer dreadfully in July and August. They are a fruitful source of anxiety and disappointment, because they cannot make up their minds whether to live or die. The young Oaks are especially trying in this respect, for when we have fairly given them up for lost, they thrust out a feeble little leaf and make a fresh effort at existence, but at this rate a millennium will be too short for them to get their growth in. I have read somewhere that an Oak grew from an acorn in this commonwealth of Massachusetts, forty feet in fourteen years, but if these hillside acorns achieve fourteen feet in forty years we shall feel we have not lived in vain.
"What do you do to make trees grow?" I asked an Englishman who was coaxing along a rebellious Butternut to some show of vigor.
" Oh!" said he, "I just talks to 'em, and tells 'em to grow, and they grow".
Mindful of this advice, I do not fail to exhort these recreant acorns, but no teacher of a primary school ever had a worse time in getting a shoot out of a young idea, than do I out of this infant class of refractory nuts and seeds.