An Ancient Tree That Stared Down Hurricane Harvey Has Become an Unlikely Hero

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Known as the Big Tree, this living oak has survived everything nature and humans could throw at it. Wikipedia

While much of Texas reels from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, one very old resident remains unbowed.

In fact, while younger, lesser trees in Goose Island State Park were left shattered in the storm's wake, a mighty oak, — affectionately dubbed "the Big Tree" by locals — remains unbroken.

Earlier this week, Texas Parks and Wildlife posted a telling photo to its Facebook page. The scene — mulched, broken branches scattered everywhere — suggests a postcard from some arboreal apocalypse.

And on the back of that postcard? Harvey was here.

But one tree stood tall in the face of Harvey's wrath. One Big Tree.

Big tree at Goose Island State Park surrounded by broken trees
Hurricane Harvey left trees at Goose Island State Park broken — with one notable exception. Texas Parks and Wildlife

In fact, the oak — considered the second oldest of its kind in America — not only stared down a hurricane, but emerged seemingly unscathed.

"You don't get old by being weak," the post noted.

Indeed, and it was just the kind of strength Texans needed to see.

'We bend, but we don't break'

"That big oak is a symbol of Texans everywhere," wrote one Facebook commenter. "We bend, but we don't break. God bless us all and God bless Texas. We will rebuild!"

Another commenter added, "This tree is Texas strong."

Maybe that's because the Big Tree has been there before. For more than 1,000 years, this mighty oak has held steadfast to its patch of earth.

It's seen fire. It's seen rain. It's likely seen more than a few aspiring lumberjacks. And, according to local lore, it even stood tall in the middle of a Civil War battle.

There was a moment — barely a flicker in this oak's long life — when people thought the Big Tree might need a hand.

Back in the summer of 2011, the area was hit by a harsh drought. There were concerns that this living landmark might finally be fading. But the fire department came to the rescue, dousing the tree in 11,000 gallons of water — essentially simulating about a half an inch of rainfall. The parched tree lapped it up and since then, it has been a living symbol of unshakable resolve.

Then Harvey came knocking. And the Big Tree was undaunted — reminding us that not all heroes leap over tall buildings. Some simply stand their ground to inspire.

If the Big Tree's very sight — its massive, sheltering branches and impenetrable trunk — doesn't already inspire us with a sense of perseverance, then there's always the nearby plaque.

It reads: "I am a live oak tree and I am very old ... I can remember hundreds of hurricanes, most I'd rather forget, but I withstood."

And Harvey, too, shall pass.