A few days ago I learned Walt Disney grew up in a small town in Missouri (a fact I think I’d heard before but hadn’t left a big impression) and that on the site of his family’s farm was still his Dreaming Tree. Dreaming Tree? What’s THAT!
Internet research revealed young Walt had loved to spend time under a tree he called his “dreaming tree,” drawing field mice and squirrels that scampered about. The following two pictures are of Walt and his brother, Roy, on a visit to the old farm in the 1950’s, visiting the tree. Apparently he requested some alone time so he could sit under his tree and do some dreaming like the old days.
Further research declared that the old tree, while having lost more and more branches over the years as evidenced by dated internet pictures, was hit by lightening in 2007 and only a small part remained.
Now I’d gotten to know various Disneyphiles when I worked at the travel agency…clients who booked every vacation with Disney Resorts and Disney Theme Parks and Disney Cruiselines. Their homes swelled with Disney collectibles and their wedding cake toppers were Mickey & Minnie…like the peoples’ whose blogs I now began finding to read about pilgrimages to Marceline, Missouri and Walt’s Dreaming Tree.
A Disney freak I have never been but – a tree with a story like that?? That’s a tree I gotta visit!
Marceline is about two hours northeast of KC so yesterday I headed out.
Being the first day of October in Missouri, the drive was idyllic, and I confirmed how medicinal country scenery is for my soul. I thought about things and realized it was the same weekend 3 years ago that I’d driven myself to central Kansas to stay at a women’s retreat center because I’d just separated from my husband and I didn’t know what else to do with myself. I thought about why do I always do that? Significant things on the same dates every year…without ever trying. I thought about the retreat and how calming it was. What was the name of that tiny town in Kansas?…
I kept seeing these saplings along the road that I was dying to know the name of… my favorite tree right now and I’ve been meaning to ask mom what they are. With floppy leaves that aren’t exactly “big,” you seem to see each leaf individually – how you draw leaves on a tree – rather than leaves all blended together into one green bouquet. Plus they’re kinda shiny so they shimmer and shake like dancing earrings. I pulled over and picked me a leaf determined to put an end to the mystery once I got home.
Disney’s old farm in located just north of Marceline, and there is nothing telling you where to find the little gravel area to park and walk to the tree and barn. There are no signs at all until you’ve actually parked. I like that.
Even dead, the thing is majestic, covered with leaves and vines and the air of an interesting history.
(A view of the tree from last winter found online before branch on the right had fallen.):
Now that branch is down but the whole thing just looks massive:
You can follow a path to a recreated barn of Walt’s childhood where everyone leaves messages in sharpie on the walls.
So the thing about the tree dying is sad, but in 2004 they planted a new tree using seeds from the original and it is thriving in its own right:
And I thought: That’s the tree I’ve been seeing all day on my trip. My favorite tree as of late. The tree I need to know the name of.
It’s a cottonwood. Walt Disney’s Dreaming Tree is a cottonwood and I’d been obsessing over cottonwoods all day, not knowing they WERE cottonwoods. Once home I used my picked leaf to verify and I also thought to look up that old retreat center to figure out the name of that town I’d forgotten, found another coincidence, and shared everything with a friend. “Okay. Those trees I’d commented on are cottonwoods and the town that retreat center was 3 years ago is Cottonwood Falls and once again, my life is magic.”