This striking image of a bicycle-eating tree on Washington's Vashon Island (it appears in Sierra's September/October issue), struck reader Janet McLane of Dandridge, Tennessee, as poignant:
The picture on the "last word" page in the September issue is so sad. No child would have willing left their bike chained to a tree. What could have taken a child away, never to return?
A little research reveals--that no one seems to know. (That didn't stop cartoonist Berkeley Breathed--of Bloom County fame--from writing a "guaranteed true Christmas story" about it: Red Ranger Came Calling.) A similar mystery surrounds a sycamore near Loch Lomond in Scotland--the "Bicycle Tree." One sentimental explanation is that a young man left his bicycle next to it and then went off to World War I, never to return. The fact that the tree also holds an anchor, however, lends credence to the alternate history that has a nearby blacksmith hanging his wares on the tree, which eventually enveloped them.
Photo by Ethan Welty/Tandem