Drive-by-and-Honk honors felled treeAt 6 p.m. Sunday, they began to gather at the Knife River rest area. Shortly after 6:30, they headed out toward Larsmont. They were families, young people, older people, one at a time, in groups—all wanting to pay a last tribute to the Honking Tree, felled by a vandal last Wednesday.
By: Monica Isley, Lake County News Chronicle
At 6 p.m. Sunday, they began to gather at the Knife River rest area. Shortly after 6:30, they headed out toward Larsmont.
They were families, young people, older people, one at a time, in groups—all wanting to pay a last tribute to the Honking Tree, felled by a vandal last Wednesday.
As their vehicles approached the area where the big white pine still lies, its stump covered with offerings by grieving people, they slowed to 45 miles per hour and began to honk. For all of them, the honking has been a tradition in their lives.
“I grew up in Two Harbors, and the first day that expressway opened, my dad and I drove by and honked,” said Diane Burcar of Duluth.
In those days, the early ‘60s, the Honking Tree would have been even more conspicuous than it was recently. Now, saplings have sprung up along the route between Two Harbors and Duluth, but back then, the Honking Tree—then known as Charlie’s Tree—was the only thing left after the area was clear-cut for expressway construction.
Hensley was the highway engineer who ate his lunch under the tree and insisted that it be preserved. Since then, it has become tradition for people to honk when passing the tree whose age is estimated at 113.
Expressions of outrage and grief have popped up in all sorts of places, from comments under newspaper stories, to Facebook groups, to conversations in churches, coffee shops and neighborhoods.
Erin Carlson, who organized the Memorial Drive-by-and-Honk, was there with her brother and other family members, all of them wearing specially embroidered t-shirts a friend created. “Remembering the Honking Tree,” the shirts said, with a pine tree stitched front and center.
Heather and Mike Riley were there early, with their children Patryck and Kim. Mike, an overland trucker, said he was stunned when stumbled on the news about the tree on the Internet.
“I’d come back home on the weekends, and my son would always say, ‘Dad, be sure to honk at the tree,’” he said.
Carlson instructed the drivers of the 30 or so vehicles that showed up to stay together, pay their respects, and then “drive on, and get on with your lives,” she said.
But most of them admitted that until someone is apprehended and convicted of the senseless crime, the story will never be quite over.