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The Sad Tale of the Tree of Ténéré
May 10, 2010 4:26 AM   Subscribe

The tree of Ténéré was the most isolated tree in the world. Standing there in the Sahara Desert, it had once been part of a lush and populated forest, but as fortunes changed and other trees disappeared, it stood alone in a barren desert, 120 miles from any other tree, an isolated landmark for caravan routes for hundreds for years (1, 2, 3, 4).
 
Until...

It was hit by a drunk driver in 1973.

Now, how bad is your day when you hit the only tree for 120 miles? And how bad is it for a tree to almost survive so much?
posted by twoleftfeet (38 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why would you do that to me man? Why would you show me the most beautiful thing in the world, and then tell me you burned it on a lark? Because that's what reading the sentence Until it was hit by a drunk driver in 1973 felt like. It felt like you had gathered all of the happiness in the world, and made a bonfire to some dark and pagan gods, just so you could tell me that you had done it.

Some people.
posted by Bobicus at 4:47 AM on May 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


My guess is the average African desert-going truck in 1973 had a clutch, so if our Libyan driver had, say, twoleftfeet, it's possible that alcohol wasn't a factor.
posted by Clamwacker at 4:48 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you heard about "MY DOG SOPHY" by 9 year old Thomas Monahan, Bobicus?
posted by Meatbomb at 4:50 AM on May 10, 2010


wasn't the Giving Tree also hit by a drunk driver?
posted by Auden at 4:51 AM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


.
posted by infini at 5:06 AM on May 10, 2010


Setup... punchline. Life is tragedy.

Nevertheless, I learn something new every day on here.
posted by fungible at 5:08 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you think that's a tragedy, the driver spilled the rest of his beer in the crash.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:14 AM on May 10, 2010


What a horrible thing to read first thing in the morning.
posted by piratebowling at 5:22 AM on May 10, 2010


The tree was already dead in 1973 I thought? Maybe not actually knocked over though (sorry I haven't looked at all the kinks there).
posted by ntrifle at 5:25 AM on May 10, 2010


What a horrible thing to read first thing in the morning.

Could be horrible in the evening as well.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:27 AM on May 10, 2010


Supposedly, the first car whose speed was measured at over 90mph broke that record during testing on a frozen lake. Then it hit an ice-bound boat or ship of some sort. Clearly, the problem is cars. They ruin everything nice.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:52 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The tree was already dead in 1973 I thought?

It drowned. The only tree for 120 miles on a route frequented by the drunken drivers of cars and camel caravans.

"Pull over by that tree."
posted by three blind mice at 5:58 AM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Kind of reminds me of a forum post about some guy's motorcycle trip on the Alaska Highway. He had a picture of the Northern-most tree along the highway; it had been chopped down (or maybe girdled) with an axe.

I think this is it, (it's blocked at work)
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:10 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


bind him to the Tree of Woe
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:14 AM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


ArgentCorvid - there is indeed a picture of a dead tree, a Black Spruce, which was "murdered by vandals" in 2004.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:46 AM on May 10, 2010


Now, how bad is your day when you hit the only tree for 120 miles? And how bad is it for a tree to almost survive so much?

It sounds like a truly Suess-ian tale.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:54 AM on May 10, 2010


I wonder if this is the same tree shown in this documentary (which is excellent, btw).
posted by desjardins at 6:57 AM on May 10, 2010


I don't know what's more tragic: the lone tree meeting it's untimely end because of some random drunk, or having to explain to your wife how you wrecked the truck by crashing into the only thing you could possibly crash into in a 120 mile radius.

Wait, was Tiger driving?
posted by aftermarketradio at 7:36 AM on May 10, 2010


At least this was an accident. The Treaty Oak in Austin, TX was nearly killed by a guy trying to cast a love spell (or maybe a curse on the woman, it's unclear). I guess a drunk driver is at least not intending to destroy the thing. On the other hand, the Treaty Oak has sort of recovered; maybe it's a wash.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:55 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Target fixation.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:02 AM on May 10, 2010


See also: golden spruce (previously); not to mention the (at the time) world's oldest known tree. Clearly individuality is a maladaptive trait if you are a tree.
posted by TedW at 8:19 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Target fixation.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:22 AM on May 10, 2010


Bob Wilton: What are you doing?
Lyn Cassady: [while driving the car] Cloud bursting, it keeps me sharp.
Lyn Cassady: [clouds over head disappear] and it's gone.
[crashes the car into a rock]
Bob Wilton: Gees, you had like the whole dessert to drive in, Lyn.
posted by jontyjago at 8:22 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


that's *desert* of course. Fucking IMDB needs to spellcheck its shit.
posted by jontyjago at 8:23 AM on May 10, 2010


Now, now, Bobicus, what have the dark and pagan gods ever done to you? I happen to be quite fond of them.
posted by jardinier at 8:55 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This one's not going down anytime soon:

"In the town center of Santa Maria del Tule in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, there stands a tree. Arbol del Tule. Nicknamed the tree of life for all the faces of animals and goblins that are visible in the tree's trunk, it is said to be over 2000 years old and has the largest diameter of any tree in the world."

And here's a clip that lets you see the scale of the tree (with humans!), hear the some of the deafening cacophony of birds that surround it, as well as some Barry White for your Monday morning.

Sorry, but this FPP made me sad and so I wanted to throw something cheerful about trees up in this one. I love trees.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:00 AM on May 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


”Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat fruit and play in my shade and be happy”..
–“I am too busy and drunk to climb trees,” said the boy. “This desert is too big and I'm driving too damn fast.”
“Come, Boy” whispered the tree, “Come and play in the shade of my kind branches.”
- "I can't find the brakes! Oh God!"
"Boy, come rest your speeding car against my ancient trunk."
And the boy did. And the tree was happy.
posted by Auden at 10:02 AM on May 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


That's easilt fixed. All we have to do is change the Sahara back into a forest again. Anybody have some free weekends?
posted by happyroach at 10:34 AM on May 10, 2010


not to mention the (at the time) world's oldest known tree.

Heh, Prometheus' death was just as ironic as the tree of Ténéré. Cut down by someone looking for the oldest tree. Hey guys, I think I found it! ... Oh.        Shit.

All this just goes to show— while it's certainly admirable to be the most extreme, it's also quite deadly.

*blends back in*
posted by carsonb at 11:49 AM on May 10, 2010


Reminds me of the treeless One Tree Hill.
posted by kyleg at 12:32 PM on May 10, 2010



Have you heard about "MY DOG SOPHY" by 9 year old Thomas Monahan, Bobicus?

I think I got whiplash hitting the back button.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:32 PM on May 10, 2010


Thanks for the post. The wikipedia link got me to the "List of famous trees" article, which led to "Old Tjikko", which led to "King Clone". An 11,000 year old ring of creosote bushes. Wow. The quote from the beginning of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep about the death of the King of Tonga's Galapagos Tortoise always makes me think about our brief window in time, but these blow all that out of the water.

Anyway, sometimes the tree wins, sometimes the drunk driver wins.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:43 PM on May 10, 2010


I'm reminded of an anecdotal story from a friend in Texas where the local city put up trees to provide shade along a highway, then cut them all down not long after because people kept driving into them.

It's not like we needed those carbon eaters anyway.
posted by yeloson at 4:59 PM on May 10, 2010


All this just goes to show— while it's certainly admirable to be the most extreme, it's also quite deadly

I dunno... why are people surprised to hear that really old things have died? That's what you'd expect them to do, isn't it? The remarkable thing is that they survived this long, right?

Isn't this sort of like saying, "I hope I don't live to be old, because old people are more likely to die"?
posted by molybdenumblue at 8:21 PM on May 10, 2010


why are people surprised to hear that really old things have died?

It didn't die of old age, it got hit by trucks twice, at least once (the last time) the driver was drunk.

So sad.
posted by Neekee at 8:50 PM on May 10, 2010


It didn't die of old age, it got hit by trucks twice, at least once (the last time) the driver was drunk.

So sad.


Well, yeah, I read that part, but clearly if this tree were capable of dying of old age it would have done so long ago, so can't we reasonably infer that the other, similar trees that once stood around it didn't die of old age either? Were their deaths more, or less sad than the death of this tree because they didn't live as long?
posted by molybdenumblue at 10:24 PM on May 10, 2010


I had already read the story of the Ténéré tree so it took the Golden Spruce story to ruin my evening. I hope that bastard had a tree fall on him. He'd probably try to kill all the pandas to make a point about endangered species.
posted by irisclara at 8:46 PM on May 11, 2010


The tree of Ténéré was the most isolated tree in the world...

It was hit by a drunk driver in 1973...

posted by twoleftfeet


Epony-tragic?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:48 AM on May 15, 2010


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