Faye Sizemore


The Scythe TreeA farmer boy did answer the call to war
He hung his scythe in a cottonwood tree;
Little did he know he’d not need it any more.
Around it for years the tree did grow
It cradled his scythe just so
A monument to a brave Union soldier
Who never came home and this is why
He was captured and so did die
in South Carolina in a confederate infirmary
His scythe in New York still remains in the tree
though only the tip of it you now can see
a salute to brave James W. Johnson
who fought for all people to be free
And this soldier was not to be the last one
Years later World War One was raging on
Alongside James’s the boys also hung their scythes
And to fight in a foreign land they were gone
The tree still stands through the summers and ice
A living tribute to brave soldiers gone to war;
May it stand in remembrance forevermore

Author’s Note: The tree in this poem still stands in Waterloo, New York State, as do a lot of similar scythe trees around America, a living tribute to common men who put aside everyday life to fight for freedom. A portion of the oak tree in which Marengo farmer Richard Thornton Shelley placed his scythe before leaving for the Civil War in 1862 is displayed. The family did not remove the scythe, and when Shelley returned from war in 1865, the crotch of the tree had grown around it. The tree-and the scythe-remained on the family farm north of Marengo for 133 years until the June 1998 windstorm blew it over. The family has loaned this portion of it to a museum in New York State.