Jefferson: Where everyone has an inner Lorax

Back in middle school, we used to spend our free moments pondering the big questions of life.

Like, “Who would win in a fight, Thor or the Hulk? Iron Man or Ant-Man? The Thing or Man-Thing?”

More than 25 years later, I haven’t really changed all that much.

I’m still wearing around shoes emblazoned with Iron Man on the sides of them, and a Hawkman pin affixed to my jacket.

In fact, I freely admit that on a daily basis, I look less like the town’s newspaper editor and more like some dude standing in line for Adam West’s autograph at Comic-Con.

So it came as no surprise that, as I thought about how to incorporate a few Dr. Seuss references into this week’s column, I found myself wondering, “Who would win in a fight, the Lorax or the Grinch?”

It’s completely conceivable they could meet up, right, seeing as how they belong to the same universe? I mean, it’s not like I’m pitting a Seuss character against someone from the “Curious George” multiverse.

Based on my personal experience, I would have to say that a battle between the Lorax and the Grinch would end in a tie — that is, until the Lorax moved home to Jefferson and the Grinch was then free to cut down his tree without a fight.

You see, back when we were living in Ohio, I found myself unexpectedly assuming the guise of the Lorax. (And, no, I’m not talking about some weird form of cosplay.)

The Grinch was my elderly neighbor, who made it his dying goal — and the dude seriously looked like he could have dropped dead at any moment — to rid the neighborhood of my tree.

It was the last one on the block.

I had a flashback to our years-long struggle earlier this week as I observed students from Greene County High School throughout town raking leaves — giant, golden piles of leaves that surely would have made old Jim (aka the Grinch) stroke out.

“What a difference a year makes,” I thought, thinking about how my family and I were lucky to escape the post-apocalyptic landscape of Springfield, Ohio, for my hometown, a place that actually values its trees.

Jefferson is proud to have achieved Tree City USA status — one of just 70 towns in Iowa to earn that designation.

By comparison, Springfield, Ohio, appears to have adopted a scorched Earth policy when it comes to trees.

The neighborhood where we lived for nearly a decade looked more like the Nevada Test Site — that section of the desert where they tested nuclear weapons — than a place once inhabited by so-called Woodland Indians.

As a homeowner, I understand that trees can occasionally be a nuisance as they spew seeds in the spring and hemorrhage leaves in the fall.

But in our old neighborhood, the answer was always to cut it down.

I have reason to believe the residents of that neighborhood were actually rooting FOR the emerald ash borer.

Personally, I feel trees are a good problem to have.

For starters, I’m a big proponent of oxygen, as I believe most humans should be.

But in Springfield, Ohio, where the unemployment rate never teeters below about 82 percent and each resident learns how to strip copper off live electrical wires by third grade, those stupid trees only block the signal of the DirecTV dish.

As a matter of fact, last year about this time, as I showed around a guy who was interested in buying the house we’d put up for sale, he asked why we didn’t have a dish on our roof like most everyone else.

When I explained that the tree prevented us from getting a signal, he replied, “No problem. We’ll just cut it down, then.”

By that point, I was tired of fighting the good fight for the block’s last-standing soft maple.

We hadn’t lived there long before the Grinch made it known to us that he wanted the tree gone.

No, it didn’t touch his roof. It didn’t even hang over his house.

At first, he offered to pay out of his own pocket for a crew to come cut it down.
I politely declined.

Then things got weird.
One evening, a tree company showed up unannounced to begin cutting the tree down.

“Whoa, fellas!” I exclaimed.

Seems our neighbor felt that if he could get to the tree before we knew what hit us, game over.

Thwarting his surprise attack, however, only enraged him.

Let me just say it’s a weird feeling to pull away from your house to see an elderly man flipping you off in the rearview mirror.

He’d also mumble profanities at us — but when you’re that hard of hearing, mumbling is more like yelling.

“This guy’s gonna try to kill us in our sleep,” I began to fear, “except he can’t make it up our bedroom stairs.”

The whole episode started playing out like a freaky mashup of “Psycho” and “Cocoon.”

And then we stuck the For Sale sign in the yard.

Just like in the book, the Lorax took his leave.

This week, as I took photos of high schoolers playing in leaves down on South Oak Street during their community service project, I began to wonder about the tree we left behind.

May the Grinch choke on his own carbon dioxide.

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Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161