The Oak Forest of San Joaquin Valley
Sometimes, if it is on top of a hill, a scrub oak looks like a mighty tree,
Its branches silhouetted by the sun, making it appear large.
And so are the hills of California, but some are barren of oak,
Whether they were always barren, or the oak harvested, I don’t know.
At one time, so I’ve read, oak forests filled the San Joaquin Valley,
Miles and miles of forests, extending out from the rivers,
Crowded with elk, bear and deer which roamed in their daily routine.
A man could hunt for an hour, and feed his family for a week.
The rivers had an abundance of duck and geese, which would take to flight if scared,
And within the water were fish in abundance, which could be easily harvested.
But the river was untamed, seasonally spilling over its banks and threatening
The homes of those who lived along its banks.
But the age of the steam boat, was the end of the forests.
The oak was harvested to power the steam engines,
Or to be hauled on those same steamboats to urban centers,
Where it provided fuel for fireplaces and stoves.
The great oak forests gave way to field of grain, except for a sliver along the river.
This was not hard oak, but soft oak from being too close to the water,
Not as good for heating or providing steam power, and so, like the oak on the hills, it remains,
A reminder of the oak forest that extended out though the valley.