Trees such as the one in this photograph can come crashing down without any notice, destroying anything in their path.

While certainly most outdoor writers would choose to write about one of the many hunting seasons either now occurring or about to, I’ve decided to go with a different topic. That topic is one seldom thought about but nevertheless very important. In fact, it could even be considered a matter of life and death.

Due to the death of not only many of Central Pennsylvania’s elm trees, but also the damage that trees of all species received in last summer’s heavy winds, our forests are now littered with what the old timers referred to as widow makers. By widow maker, I’m referring to a tree that has been heavily damaged and is in danger of collapsing at any time.

Have you ever encountered a tree that’s top half has snapped and is hanging with little support? What about a tree that’s root system gave out and is now being held up by another tree? Both are fine examples of widow makers because, sooner or later with little or no warning, these trees will come crashing down, destroying anything in their path. Hazards such as this must be avoided if at all possible. Should you choose to walk near or under a widow maker, please do so as gently and quickly as possible. Better yet, just don’t do it. Avoid the obstacle even if it requires a detour.

Late September my wife Karen and I witnessed just how quickly and powerfully a widow maker can drop. We had decided to take a ride in the Laurelton area in hopes of taking a few snapshots of the local wildlife. We had just crossed a small bridge and were about to enter our local State Game Lands when I noticed a large tree beginning to collapse. Yelling for my wife to stop the Jeep, she responded immediately and not a second too soon as the tree, after glancing off of another, landed directly across the road only a few yards ahead of us. Looking back, I wish that I had taken a photo of the tree, which certainly would have crushed our Jeep. But, as it was nearly dark, we chose to hurry home and contact the authorities so that it could be cleaned up before someone in a hurry might come along and end up crashing into the mess. There is no doubt in my mind that we were saved through divine intervention as we could have easily been severely injured or possibly even killed.

For your own sake as well as that of your loved ones, please avoid any damaged trees you encounter, as it only takes a second to be in a life-altering accident.

Larry Hendricks is an avid outdoorsman from Union County.

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