Why We Hate Poplar Trees
Routinely, around our family cabin in Michigan, my dad would cut down any poplar tree that dared to grow. He cultivate all varieties of pine, birch and hardwoods like maple. But poplar trees were treated like weeds. They needed to be cut down quickly before they invaded the space of other good trees. So, over the years, I took this as a matter of known fact, that poplars were "bad" trees, meant to be cut down.
My brother Tim and I have discussed the many uniquenesses of our dad over regular phone visits. And this poplar hatred has been one. Today, Tim solved the mystery of why we hate poplar trees. In an extended phone visit to my dad's brother, Eldon, Tim heard a family story we did not know. My grandfather, E.R. Johnson, emigrated to the United States from Sweden when he was 8 years old with his parents. E.R.'s father, August Johnson, experienced devastating famine. To extend bread dough, many Swedes cut down poplar trees and scraped out the moist insides of the bark to make something known as "bark bread." While healthy, it was bitter and sour and became a visceral reminder of famine and hardship. While not overtly talked about (Swedes don't talk overtly!!) this deep animosity to the poplar tree was imprinted in both my dad and uncle. Mystery solved!