The tree that never surrendered
by Herman Labuschagne

Eden Express article, 22 September 2013


In a side channel of the Olifants River stands a mighty tree. She has been rooted there since before anyone can remember. Science calls her Acacia albida – but to ordinary people she is known as the Ana tree. Her name came from a woman named Ana who delivered a child under one of these trees in Voortrekker times.


Ana stands in front of my father’s house. In less than 20 years the Olifants River has experienced three 1,000 year floods, plus several smaller ones. The riverbanks as we knew it used to be very densely covered with monster-sized old Sycamore figs. But with each great flood more of them got washed away. Today only seven Sycamores remain – plus old Ana.


Ana is the most remarkable tree of them all, because she stands squarely inside the biggest river channel where she receives the full force of every flood. Each time driftwood piles against her. Each time floating trees ram into her with thudding force. All the other trees were washed away, or snapped clean off. But Ana, more than any tree, has stood singularly unmoved through every storm. The reason for this is simple – while the fig trees had shallow surface roots, Ana has a tap root that has gone straight down to the bedrock of the river. She is anchored where it matters, and that is why she stands.


My father had a favourite greeting which he reserved for me. Often times he would end with: “And remember – no surrender till you’re all out of ammo.” He passed away this week. When we said our last words, it suddenly struck me that here was a man who might die, but who never surrendered. I smiled when I realized why. He too, had roots – and they were anchored in solid rock.