Requiem For The Honking Tree(Photo by Forrest Johnson) The Honking Tree. A familiar and much-loved icon along Highway 61 near Larsmont, was cut down sometime Wednesday night.
(Photo by Forrest Johnson) The Honking Tree. a familiar and much-loved icon along Highway 61 near Larsmont, was cut down sometime Wednesday night. Once the only tree left standing in the median after the construction of the expressway between Two Harbors and Duluth in the 1960s, it generated a tradition for Two Harbors people, who honked as they passed by on their way home.
MnDOT employee Steve Baublitz was on his way to work at around 6:15 in the morning when he passed the fallen tree and notified the Lake County Sheriff's Department.
Dispatcher John Brandt said that hopefully the word gets out and that somebody talks.
"There'll be a lot of people upset by this," he said.
Alicia Larson of Two Harbors was stopped on the side of the road near the fallen tree, camera in hand.
"It's like a memorial, everyone knows that tree," she said. "It's been spray painted before but why would somebody just cut it down?"
The word was spreading pretty quickly through Two Harbors. Mayor Randy Bolen mentioned it at an early morning downtown business association meeting. At the SuperOne store, employee Treasaigh Anderson was stunned by the news.
"It was a tradition for us to honk as we headed home," she said. "The kids would say we had to honk for each one of them as we went by. When I was a kid, whenever I saw that tree I knew I was almost home. I'm almost in tears."
People sauntered into the Lake County News-Chronicle office all morning to report that the tree was down.
"It was almost as if they were coming in to report a death and see if the obituary would be in the paper," said editor Forrest Johnson. "The tree had a life of its own."
Bolen stopped by the office later to pick up a newspaper and he confirmed that the tree meant a lot to locals.
"When I was a little I'd be riding in the back seat with my brothers and mom or dad would say, 'There's the honking tree, we're almost home.' That's what it meant to a lot of people around here."
MnDOT's John Bray said workers plan to load the tree onto a flatbed and haul it up the Two Harbors work station. They haven't decided what to do with the legacy tree quite yet but it won't be chipped up and left along the highway.
"It's amazing what a tree like that can mean to people," he said. "It's obviously an important landmark for people around Two Harbors. It was special to MnDOT because it was saved by an old highway engineer named Charlie Hensley. We called it "Charlie's tree." He made sure the tree was left when the expressway was being built. He was ahead of his time."
The Lake County Sheriff's Department is investigating.
A more complete story to follow later.