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A prayer that bears fruit

 


Wade Burnside’s DNA may remain in his apple trees.

Burnside was a determined sort who loved deeply and acted on it, not necessarily in ways that were easily understood.

But last Friday, standing amidst his legacy high above Delano, a glimmer of his spirit came through.

There, on top of a high, rocky hill, stood his flagpole, newly adorned with a fresh American flag, flying higher than any other around, just the way he intended, a symbol of his love for the nation.

Nearby, a less obvious symbol struggles for life, and even less obviously, seems to be winning. Apple trees Burnside planted on the waterless batholith look dead, or nearly so. And yet, incredibly, years after they stopped receiving his hand-carted water up the high hillside, originally conveyed in five-gallon buckets, a few green leaves spring amidst grey, dry, cracking branches. Even more amazingly, they insist on producing fruit, despite their plight.

Burnside planted those trees as a tribute to the astronauts who died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. When he told me that nearly 30 years ago, I couldn’t quite make the connection between an unlikely orchard on a rock and the national heroes who didn’t make it into space. But Burnside did.

Hard, unrelenting, determined labor was his way of expressing the admiration he had for the astronauts, who were of a kind with him — fiercely determined, focused and steeped in the knowledge and even wisdom that seeps into the bones of those who know how to extract it from pure work.

Burnside’s flag and his orchard were a prayer, offered in humility and sweat, that a nation would prosper through the values displayed by those brave souls who had dared to reach for space, for eternity.

Let’s all hope his prayer continues to bear fruit, and work to make it so.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

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