Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Elm Tree on Monte Vista Boulevard

It doesn’t seem like much of a curve when you look at it from above—just the slightest bend in the road. It’s when you are not watching where you are going that those slight turns catch up with you. It’s all a matter of perspective.

We went back to Monte Vista Boulevard on a research trip to Albuquerque a few years ago. My husband needed to re-acquaint himself with a particular tree in question, and to see for himself how such a little angle could devolve into such a big matter.

As you can see from the satellite picture of the area above, there is not much of a bend in the road at all. Taken from the street view, on foot, the visuals produce a bit more of a clue. Walking south of the intersection in question—Monte Vista and Marquette—the curve becomes a bit more apparent. The further back, the more obvious the change in direction.

How quickly that little variance can fly by.

At thirty-five miles per hour.

At more than thirty-five miles per hour.

When the distance traversed between car passenger and that particular elm tree became a matter of the space between the front fender and the vehicle’s passenger compartment, it left a noticeable impact. One news report claimed that the tree had actually been uprooted, but when we talked to a long-time resident on that street, there was no remembrance of the tree being removed.

Some say it stayed—but with a scar.

Trees never move. That’s the power of roots. A metal frame moving at a safe, reasonable speed of, say, thirty-five miles per hour—or even, say, a less safe, less reasonable speed of much more than thirty-five miles per hour—may jar a tree upon impact. But in a competition of endurance—tree versus vehicle—it will be the steel that will give, more than the tree.

This elm tree stood its ground. The car heading northbound on Monte Vista on Friday night, February 6, 1970, that decided to take it on, head to head, discovered that it was no match for the elm. The car’s front end crumpled with a force that sent the engine block penetrating far enough into the passenger compartment to land on the front seat.

Norma’s son, John Kelly Stevens, was on that front seat. Pinned.

The elm tree won.

Satellite image, top right, from Google Maps.


  1. Jacqi, I always enjoy your writing --- particularly this series. Keep it up.

  2. It wasn't the tree's fault.

    In an automobile, one or two inattentive moments can be more devastating.

    I wonder how the driver "lived with himself" afterwards.


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