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Woman loses childhood tree (w/video)

By Jessica Priest
Dec. 30, 2013 at 6:30 a.m.

Francie Strane Byrne, of Victoria, left, talks with Sal's Tree Trimming employee Chris Vasquez, of Victoria, after a 75-year-old pecan tree fell on her home late Saturday evening. "We used to have Easter egg hunts under that tree," Byrne said, "My sister got married here; we danced here."

It will be strange for one Victoria woman to return home Tuesday.

That's because a pecan tree that's shaded Francie Strane Byrne's house and family all her life was chopped down Monday.

Over the weekend, the 75-year-old tree fell on the house, which her grandparents built in 1950.

It crashed through an upstairs bedroom window, punctured the roof and shook the concrete slab surrounding its trunk.

Byrne, who co-owns A1 Storage with her husband, Tom Byrne, was not at home when the tree fell.

Byrne is not worried about the damage, which insurance will cover; she is worried about losing the one place her loved ones like to gather.

Her sister got married under the tree. Growing up, kids in the neighborhood would play kickball and drink bottled Dr Pepper beneath its shady branches.

The family would recline underneath the tree, and a Greyhound bus bound for San Antonio passing by would be the only indication of the passage of time, she said.

"It's like cutting up my childhood, you know?" she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

A stump remains. Perhaps, Byrne will plant an oak tree there.

For now, the tree's remnants are scattered throughout her yard in the 1500 block of North Main Street. She will fashion the scraps into a table, a bench or a swing.

"We're going to savor as much as we can," Byrne said. "We have no idea why (the tree began leaning Saturday). It still had all its leaves."

But the tree trimmer found a clue as to why the tree fell.

"To tell you the truth, this particular tree - and there was no way they could have foreseen this - was rotting below the ground level," said Sal Perez, owner of Sal's Tree Trimming.

He and Saski Crane and Equipment Rental were hired to cut its limbs and lift it off the house. It was about an eight-hour job but certainly not the biggest Perez has tackled.

Green leaves can be deceiving, he said.

"Look at where the limbs split from the trunk. Sometimes, you can see that it is discolored or turning black. Sometimes, sap is leaking out. That's a sign it's rotting," he said.

Oak trees are much heartier than pecan or ash trees, the latter of which he's seen the drought claim far more often.

"People should always get a second opinion anytime they notice a tree is leaning. The soil here in Victoria is not that great," Perez said. "I guess the most important thing is: Don't take the trees for granted. ... It's like anything else; they need maintenance."

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