Drive around enough of Newton County and you're sure to see a tree, or a few dozen, that's been planted by forester Beryl Budd.
Budd has been making Newton County a greener place for the past 27, and locals had no shortage of stories about the affable, hard-working man who is retiring from the Georgia Forestry Commission.
Budd started out in his career as a rural forester, helping private landowners manage their forests, whether that meant cutting down unhealthy trees too far gone, maintaining and rehabilitating one that could be saved or planting a new generation of wooden beings.
After that, he moved to community forestry and has been involved in every city in Newton County, in Social Circle and in cities all across the state. His Newton Country brethren held a retirement ceremony Saturday morning at Oxford City Hall, and honored him with words and the spectrum of wooden gifts.
Newborn's Martha Ellwanger even composed the beloved Budd a poem:
Beryl you're going to retire and that we admire,
but what will we do when we no longer have you.
When the tornado hit, you never quit
and saved what you could, all that beautiful wood.
We give you three cheers
for all of the trees planted over the years.
The town looks like it did in years gone by
with a green canopy reaching up to the sky.
We're a green town again,
and we thank you dear friend.
But suppose there a flood,
and trees fall with a thud,
or suppose we have snow
and strong winds that blow.
The outlook is grim;
we'll be out on a limb.
We wish you all the best,
but we have a request:
stay closely in touch
because we need you so much.
Oxford's Hoyt Oliver told about the deep meaning trees have held in many of the world's religions, including the tree of life in the Bible, Siddhartha's transformation into the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, the Norse religion's Yggdrasil, who's roots were in the underworld and whose branches reached to the heavens, and Sioux holy man Black Elk who had visions of a great flowering tree of life of peace and harmony.
"And in recent years, Beryl Budd has been the patron saint of the trees of Oxford," Oliver said.
For his gift, Oliver offered Budd a bowl made from the burl of a Water Oak.
"A burl bowl for Beryl Budd," Oliver said.
Social Circle offered Budd a bluebird treehouse made by Ellijay artist Laurance Sawyer, Porterdale Mayor Arline Chapman gave him an original tree painting, Newton County promised to plant in honor of Budd next Arbor Day and Covington had a stone engraved with a message for Budd, which would be placed on a tree well on the north side of the square.
The stone read, "For a lifetime of dedication to planting goodness in the soil and the community the city of Covington dedicates this tree in honor of Beryl Budd, GFC Community Forester. May the roots from his labor continue to educate, beautify and encourage all of those he has impacted."
Budd in turn thanked all of the cities and expressed what a pleasure it's been to work with all the local cities.
"This is really great. What can I say? It's been my pleasure to have worked with all of you through the years," Budd said. "Everybody's been saying we're going to miss you. Actually I'm still here. I don't have plans to go anywhere, and I hope to be around for a while."
When asked after the ceremony, Budd said he had probably helped people plants hundreds of thousands of trees, from seedlings to big trees, in his 30-plus year career.
"I've always enjoyed the forest. When I was a kid, I practically lived out in the woods, the forest behind our home," Budd said. "I just always had an interest in and decided to go into forestry, and I've been there ever since and will continue working in forestry."
As for a favorite tree, Budd chose the oak.
"I love oaks because of the long life, and they give off so much shade. They're beneficial for wildlife. They just have so many benefits," he said.
As for the oldest tree he's ever seen, he said it's probably the Redwood and Sequoia trees out west, along with the Douglas-firs and Ponderosa Pines. He's still hoping to make another trip out west to see the bristlecone pines, thought to be some of the oldest organisms in existence.
That sounds like the perfect first vacation trip for a retired forester.