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Utility Tree Slaughter

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A few months ago, I pulled into my driveway after work and had a strange sensation that I was at the wrong house. Something was very wrong. I couldn’t immediately put my finger on it, though, so I shrugged it off and went on into my house. I grabbed the dogs’ leashes and headed out for our evening walk. As I descended my driveway, it hit me. Or rather, it didn’t hit me. There were no mimosa leaves to walk through. I looked on either side of my driveway and saw nothing but stumps. Someone had cut the mimosas that gently draped across my driveway down to their very stumps.

I gasped audibly. One dog cowered because that sound is usually preceded by a stern scolding for her destructive behavior. I couldn’t speak. Someone had walked 10 feet onto my property and leveled my trees! I was literally in so much shock that I had difficulty breathing. This may sound like an overreaction to many, but I don’t care. I loved those trees with a passion. Let me tell you why.

I fell in love with mimosa trees when I did a lot of traveling through Kentucky and West Virginia. I found the blossoms so delicate, yet vivid, I had to stop on the side of highway to investigate.

They were the sweetest blooms I had ever seen. The leaves gently draped down with the pretty and colorful blooms on the tops. Such gorgeous trees! And so many! As soon as I got to my home I searched my local nurseries to buy some seedlings. That is when I discovered that mimosas were on the Invasive Species list and my state would not sell them. I was devastated but looked forward each year to my drive to Kentucky so that I could admire the mimosa trees along the highway.

I eventually moved to a different state and went looking to buy a new house. The fourth house I saw had sets of mimosas on either side of the driveway in full bloom. The leaves of the mimosas gently brushed the roof of my car as I passed in between them as if to say, “Welcome home!” I was overjoyed. I bought the house after giving the inside a cursory look. Who cared? I had mimosa trees!!!

The kids and I would sing “Welcome to the Jungle” every spring when we would pull into our driveway. This provided hours of amusement for me and good-humored eye-rolls from my oldest child. Her friends thought I was crazy. But the good kind of crazy. At least I think so.

The trees provided the additional benefit of privacy, shielding my home from passing neighbors. They discouraged people from turning around in my driveway. They provided erosion control for the steep embankment on the other side of property as they have an extensive runner system beneath the soil (hence the Invasive Species deal). They were fully contained on three sides by asphalt and on the other side by my lawn mower so they could not spread. They buffered noise from the road. These were the perfect trees. They provided aesthetic appeal, erosion control, and a noise barrier, and were gently uplifting on a bad day. I challenge anyone to let the leaves of a mimosa caress your cheek, then pluck a blossom, and remain in a bad mood. It can’t happen. These trees were my antidepressants.

But a few months ago, that came to an abrupt halt. As I stared at the stumps, cut down to their little bones, I cried. It looked malicious. The trees were not tall enough to interfere with power lines. They were not near anyone else’s property so they were not going to invade another’s yard. The leaves are not on the power company’s list of trees that require pruning. And besides, this wasn’t a gentle pruning. This was malicious and wilful with complete disregard for my property or my wishes.

I contacted the Virginia Department of Transportation. They came out to my property right away. They indicated that 1) they had not been cutting trees in my area and 2) there’s “no way” they would have done something like that! They pointed me in the direction of Dominion Virginia Power. I emailed the power company. They sent me a form letter saying, “Sorry, it was on your last month’s power bill that we would be in the area.” I wrote back that I wanted a manager/supervisor to contact me. I heard nothing for several weeks. One day a man came to my door saying that he was from the power company and, “Did you call to have some trees cut down?” I quickly assured him that I wanted NOTHING more cut down and I filled him in on what had happened. He stated, “I’ll tell the boss.” I heard nothing more from the power company.

After months of listening to me complain about my trees and the uncaring power company, my boyfriend called Dominion Virginia Power and reported to them that I was in an everpresent bad mood and he was tired of putting up with it. At least, I think that’s what he told them because a representative came out the following day.

The representative from Dominion Virginia was, according to his business card, the “Distribution Forestry Coordinator, Distribution Reliability” guy. He came to my house and was very courteous. He said they would be six or eight feet tall again by spring. He counted their rings. He said that the trees had been only five years old. (They were mature five years ago by the way.) He said he was sorry. He said they had a team from Texas helping them out. He shrugged. He said the wording in their contract states that they are permitted to cut down trees that they deem are interfering with their power lines 15 feet in either direction from the lines. He acknowledged that mimosas are not on their list of trees to prune. He acknowledged that my mimosas were so young that they wouldn’t have interfered with his lines. He acknowledged that they needn’t have cut them down to the stumps. He acknowledged that the warning that they would be in the area on my billing statement was not sufficient for me to know that my mimosa trees were in danger because they were obviously not going to interfere with his lines even when fully mature. He said he was sorry again.

Like a bolt of lightning, the following scene from the movie Liar Liar (1997) flashed before my eyes.

Fletcher: You scratched my car!
Motorpool Guy: Where?
Fletcher: [indicating with his hands] Right there!
Motorpool Guy: OH… That was already there.
Fletcher: You—LIAR! You know what I am going to do about this?
Motorpool Guy: what?
Fletcher: Nothing! Because if I take it to small claims court, it will just drain eight hours out of my life and you probably won’t show up and even if I got the judgment you’d just stiff me anyway; so what I am going to do is piss and moan like an impotent jerk, and then bend over and take it up the tailpipe!
Motorpool Guy: [tossing the keys to Fletcher] You’ve been here before haven’t ya?

Apologies cannot make up for the feeling that I was violated. Apologies cannot help us when my family wants to sing “Welcome to the Jungle” this spring. Apologies won’t caress my cheek. Apologies don’t help the average consumer who is at the mercy of these people. What can I do? I can’t sue them. I don’t have the money. They can’t be replaced because Virginia has mimosas on the Invasive Species list. All I can do is wait and see if they regrow, gently draping across my driveway in a few years.

Until then, I guess Dominion Virgina Power has essentially told me that I can go caress myself.

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About Alexandria Jackson

  • Summer Said

    Horrendous invasion of your property and I would venture to guess not only illegal but an infringement of your rights as a citizen, possibly even your constitutional rights! I’d be insensed. There can be no possible defense in a case such as this under the Constitution. Clearly a case of an illiegal, undemocratic, corporate monopoly raping one’s life and property. I am so sorry for your loss and it disgusts me that this is how business is done in America these days. I love Mimosa trees too.

  • John Lake

    The small claims wasn’t a bad idea. Wouldn’t put back the trees, tho.
    Reading your article, very nice, by the way, I was hoping for some larger pictures of the trees in bloom. Maybe you could throw in a follow up, maybe with some new trees from the garden shop, and with some neat pictures.

  • Alexandria Jackson

    Summer – I’m so glad to hear your opinion because I thought mine was over the top! Thanks so much.

    John L – thanks, I’ll see what I can do…

  • Captain Akhmed

    May the fleas of a thousand camels infest the infidels that cut down your blessed Mimosas.

  • Anarcissie

    I believe they’ll grow back. My landlord wanted to cut down all ‘my’ mimosas, but after a certain amount of discussion he agreed that if I destroyed the one growing next to the foundation of the house I could leave the others. I had to cut the condemned tree down several years in a row before it gave up the ghost. The others are doing very well. They’re hard to kill.

    I do find the urge to cut down harmless decorative trees rather odd, but it seems to be in some people’s genes.

    If they’re invasive species we humans should give them a pass as a matter of professional courtesy.

  • Stacy

    What a bunch of jacka__es!! This is why we need unions. This is why we need regulations. To protect the little guy (or tree) from jerks who have too much power.

    I hope your trees grow fast and strong.

    We need more trees than we need these jerks.