Burls

I noticed two huge burls on this big old oak tree during a recent walk. They are at least 18″ (~0.5m) across. They are on city park land and should be safe. They are valuable wood and can be made into beautiful objects.

As I walked farther, it occurred to me I had a very tenuous connection to another burl. Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives was born in southeast Illinois. I was born in Illinois. He attended Eastern Illinois University not far from his birthplace. I attended EIU. He dropped out. Sixty years later a university building was named after the school’s most famous dropout. I graduated with a master’s degree in physics education. No buildings were named after me.

His brother Clarence Estie Ives farmed only a few miles from our home farm in western Illinois. He is buried in a cemetery I passed many times as a youth.

 

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10 thoughts on “Burls

  1. Eliza Waters

    Theft of burls has become a problem in some rural areas, often causing the death of the tree. Makes one wonder about people’s values.
    I guess it helps to be a film star to have a building named after you or perhaps give a bucket a money to the school (which maybe he did?).

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    1. Jim R Post author

      I could find no evidence that he gave money to the school. I did find this quote.
      “I LOVED TO PLAY FOOTBALL. THAT WAS THE BIG MAGNET WHICH DREW ME TO CHARLESTON,” HE SAID. “WHEN I SAW ALL THE HEAT THAT THE POOR MEN (THE COACHES) HAVE TO ENDURE TO EXIST, I SAID, ‘WELL, THAT’S NO LIFE FOR ME, SO I THINK I’D BETTER STICK WITH THE GUITAR.”

      Ives dropped out of Eastern Illinois (then called Eastern Illinois Teachers College) his junior year, leaving his final class by slamming the door so hard behind him that it broke the glass.

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  2. Steve Gingold

    Gnarly photo.

    Regarding Eliza’s comment above, it’s not surprising that someone would do that…despicable though it might be. Burled wood is quite valuable and prized both for lumber, where it is made into expensive veneers for furniture, jewelry boxes, etc., and for wood turning into decorative bowls as evidenced in your linked images.

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  3. shoreacres

    My first thought was of Burl Ives. Those are some interesting details that you shared. Since you don’t have a building named after you, maybe we could petition to have a burl named after you. 🙂

    I’ve seen burl bowls, and they’re breathtaking. I remember one that was inlaid with turquoise, and one that had natural perforations all around. My woodworking friend in the hill country pondered giving it a try, but his health didn’t allow him the opportunity.

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  4. melissabluefineart

    Connections like that are fun, aren’t they? My brother and sister attended the same high school as Bing Crosby, and I attended the same high school as Dick van Dyke. The subject of burls brings back happy memories of wandering down Highway 1 in California and stopping at roadside shops to look at furniture made of redwood burls. They are indeed beautiful.

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