In his book Living Witness: Historic Trees of Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2012), Austin-native and photographer Ralph Yznaga presents a unique tribute to the beauty and history found in Texas nature. Inspired by the Texas Forest Service book, Famous Trees of Texas, Yznaga has carefully documented 37 historic trees, giving readers a brief history, photographs, and driving directions to the biggest and oldest trees found in Texas.
For this Weekend with TAMU Press Books, Yznaga has provided us with his inspiration for the book, as well as his favorite tree:
“The inspiration for my book was a wonderful old book published in 1969 by the Texas Forestry Service called Famous Trees of Texas. My book revisits the trees from that book and provides an updated version of our historic trees. Like the original, my book provides a map and driving directions to each tree. There is a further continuity between the two books as the Texas Forestry Service Press and TAMU Press are now the same entity.
It is hard to choose a favorite tree, as I love them all, but I will say the Heart O' Texas Oak is probably it. There is nothing terribly amazing about the look of the tree. And it is certainly not the most significant tree, as its claim to fame is that it is located at the very center of the state as determined by a survey in the 1920's. What makes it special to me was standing close to it on that unpopulated road on a beautifully clear autumn afternoon. I felt a million miles from civilization and was able to enjoy the outdoor pleasures that make traveling around the state so memorable. It was a perfect day. “
What: Heart O' Texas Oak
Location: Country road south of Brownwood, in between Mercury and Brookesmith.
Getting There: From Brady, head north on US Highway 377 for 20 miles. Turn right on Farm RD 502, and continue on through Mercury, TX. Turn south on Ranch Road 1028; proceed 2/10ths of a mile to the tree.
About: The Heart O’ Texas Oak acts as a marker for the geographic center of the state, as determined by a survey in 1922. It is located exactly at the center point where the four equal quarters of the state meet.
What You'll See: The tree is not markedly tall, old, or beautiful. It is a modest tree, with no sign to indicate its significance, but it rests in the beautiful and quiet countryside, a perfect and peaceful escape.