2006-04-26 / Family

The mysterious little pine of Midlothian

"It's not me behind the tree," insists Anne Hill
By Charles Batchelor

"People get so excited when they see me on the side of the road," Anne Hill explained with a sigh. "They think they've 'solved the mystery.' I want to yell or wear a big sign that says, 'It's not me.' It has gotten ridiculous."

For well over five years a scrawny little pine that has managed to sort of thrive in a 30-yard wide strip of no-man's land between Winterfield Road and the railroad tracks has been regularly decorated for the season. Christmas, of course, but June graduation (little rolled up white diplomas with black mortarboards), St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, and Easter all have been saluted as well. Large snowflakes were hung from the limbs to mark winter.

The Salisbury septuagenarian admits she now maintains the tradition of the tree, but says she was not the person who started it.

"I don't know who started it," Hill explains. "No one knows."

The original keeper of the little pine and Hill only communicated via notes left at the tree. "I once left her a note telling her how much I appreciated what she was doing. That's how I got involved," she says.

2006 Kerry Dean The Fourth of July holiday Hill says she told the keeper she liked that the pine tree was decorated at other times besides Christmas. "I don't enjoy the Christmas season any more," Hill offered.

Risking her safety crossing the busy road and walking the unkept ditchbank, Hill left a few more notes. Then one day, about five years ago, Hill got a poem at the tree that seemed to say goodbye. "It was wishing me well," she said. Hill took the tree project on, never solving the mystery of who started it.

Road crews last month cleared the roadside of all of the brush, but wisely left the otherwise unremarkable pine untouched. "I guess I'll have to keep on doing it," Hill says.

The celebrity tree is being drafted to fundraising. Kerry Dean and Frances Medley, who go to church with Hill, are creating a 2007 calendar to raise funds to support Medley's husband's goal of becoming an Episcopal priest.

"We have no idea how many might sell," Medley said. "We're looking for partners now." The calendar-makers can be reached via email at 2006 Kerry Dean June weddings/summer at the beach 2006 Kerry Dean The little pine by the tracks had Happy New Year.

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