The Man of the Trees
School: Park River Area High School, Park River ND Educator: Kierstin Hurtt
AWARD: Silver Key
The work starts on a late morning before the fog completely lifts. A short ride in a beat- up pick up full of an odd assortment of pruning shears, garden trowels, and plant clippings delivers me to the spot where I will work. Once I get there, I realize the area is bigger than I thought. Even so, the job seems easy; I just have to pull some plants out of the ground. The garden is beautiful, with tall wheat-like grasses framing an ornate metal arch with a garden bench, accented by colorful flowers. Small and medium size trees provide the whole area with shade, and to the right a great boulder stands guard. The boulder is a striking, yet ordinary grey mass about ten feet tall, entirely solid, radiating a gentle sturdiness. That boulder could be used as quite an accurate description of the man that I was volunteering for: Joel Hylden.
Joel is a man who is the picture of the middle-class, Protestant, North Dakotan, quite ordinary. He could be described almost as an ent from The Lord of the Rings. He radiates a gentle sturdiness, with kind eyes and a muted youthfulness. His beliefs are of the old- spirit, of getting back to our roots. He believes in people learning about nature and embracing the beauty of God’s creation, not constricting it to man’s ideal sense of beauty. He also believes that “everyone should be taught how to prune a tree properly.” He has a fatherly wisdom about him, wisdom that he teaches to anyone that will listen; a wisdom of doing things the way God wants.
A deeply religious family man, Joel has a down-to-earth, quiet demeanor. He is the rock of every room he walks into. His home is full of life, the way it was meant to be: natural. Nature peeks out