The Jackson Herald
February 7, 2001
Cottonwood for national symbol
I never got the chance to vote for the national bird. If I had,
I don't know that I would have voted for the bald eagle. After
all, he's not really bald, is he? I can see some Brits laughing
at the silly Americans with the "bald" eagle who is
not really bald. I would have voted for the woodpecker, I think.
Since I didn't get to vote for the national bird, I jumped at
the opportunity the National Arbor Day Society is giving to all
Americans to vote for the national tree. The other night, I logged
onto their website, www.arborday.com, and did some research on
the 21 trees that are in the running. When I go to a restaurant,
I read the entire menu. The appetizers, the main dishes, all
of the descriptions underneath the names, not a word goes unread
or unconsidered. Even at the Waffle House, where I always order
the same thing, I read the menu. So you can imagine what kind
of attention 21 choices of real national importance should warrant.
To narrow it down quickly, I established two criteria: first,
the tree had to grow throughout the United States (because I've
never seen a bald eagle outside of a cage), and, second, I wanted
a hardy tree. If it's going to be a national symbol, I didn't
want a tree that would keel over after 15 years or one that only
grows to be 30 feet tall.
The Dogwood was knocked out of the running because of the blight,
dogwood anthracnose, which has reduced the number of trees in
the country. A tree that can be taken down by disease shouldn't
be the national symbol. The Elm was discounted for the same reason
as the Dogwood. Dutch Elm Disease has reduced its number.
The Douglas fir's size was admirable with a record height of
329 feet and a crown spread of 60 feet, but, as the most favored
Christmas tree, millions are chopped down yearly. Not good either.
I'd never heard of the Kukui tree, which grows only in Hawaii,
or the Tulip tree, so I crossed them off the list.
If the tree only grew in one area of the country like the Palm
tree, which grows on the coast, then I decided it wouldn't be
The Pecan tree had a lot to recommend it, including being described
by Western explorers in 1541 when Hernando DeSoto came upon it,
but it grows in only half of the country. Reluctantly, I marked
it off my list of finalists.
The Redbud was the prettiest on the list, which is why I crossed
it off too.
Georgians might get a kick out of this one: the Pine tree made
the list of finalists. I'm still laughing. They're ugly and sticky.
Not to mention being the most feared tree that I know of thanks
to their spindly height and icy Georgia winters. Besides, my
Grandma says they attract ticks.
After about an hour, I had it narrowed down to four: the Cottonwood,
the Hemlock, the Magnolia and the Oak. Because of the magnitude
of the decision, I decided to sleep on it.
In the morning, I considered their good points. The Oak can live
for centuries (a big plus), it's described as "impressive
in stature," and it's damage-resistant. The Magnolia isn't
only a finalist because it's my favorite tree and it decorates
my kitchen; it is the oldest of all flowering plant trees and
its grows in all but two of the ten hardiness zones of the United
States. The Hemlock was a favorite because of its "ability
to thrive in the densest shade and so overtake trees requiring
more light." I thought this was a good image for the U.S.
and one it could carry well. Then, the Cottonwood (or Poplar
tree). It boasts the widest range of any North American tree
and grows up to 100 feet tall.
I chose the Cottonwood because of the number of zones it grows
in, nine, which is the most of all of the trees on the list.
Now I'll watch to see how the rest of the country votes between
now and Arbor Day. Maybe my tree will win and I'll have taken
part in its victory, but I'm quietly praying that the Magnolia
wins it in a sweep.
Rochelle Beckstine is a reporter for Mainstreet Newspapers.
The Jackson Herald
February 7, 2001
One super cheerleader
Her varsity counterparts may have been in Savannah for the state
competitive cheerleading meet, but Jefferson seventh grader SarahBeth
Rogers nearly stole the show during Saturday's Jefferson-Greater
Atlanta Christian varsity basketball games.
The word nearly is appropriate simply because Rogers picked the
most competitive home games of the season during which to strut
her stuff. On any other night, she'd have been the main attraction.
With the visiting Lady Spartans carrying the state's No. 1 Class
AA ranking, the fans were treated to an amazing show as the Lady
Dragons downed GAC by a mere two points.
The girls' game turned out to be only a preliminary, as the Dragon
boys recovered from a 19-point deficit to win by two in double
As if the crowd wasn't revved up enough due to the games, Rogers'
performance during timeouts consistently brought standing ovations,
even from visiting fans.
As cheering goes, she didn't really do anything spectacular,
just a set of handstands. The amazing part was that she did them
for the length of the court. About 20 times. The last two with
a fractured arm.
Support cheerleading, although not a sporting event of itself,
is a vital part of sporting events, particularly basketball.
A support cheerleader is on the floor to pep up the crowd, and
to encourage fans to get involved in the game.
More than any other this writer has witnessed, Rogers' efforts
represented what cheering should be. There was no pumping music
to guide her, and no hip gyrations bordering on the obscene.
Just a simple set of handstands and plenty of enthusiasm.
Regardless of who won or placed Saturday in Savannah, Rogers
is a state champion in my book.
Thanks, SarahBeth, for a great show.
While we're on the subject, it should be noted that this writer
is of the opinion that competitive cheerleading should not be
considered a sport. The GHSA disagrees, according to its 2000-2001
Constitution and By-Laws, which states "Cheerleading is
a state championship sport . . .[emphasis added],"
but we all know from past experience that all the lights aren't
on in the GHSA cranial gymnasium.
Before all you cheer-moms out there in Readerland pull out your
Pentels and fire off a bunch of critical letters, hear my reasoning.
Competitive cheerleading is basically a mix of cheering, dance
and gymnastics. Cheering itself is not a sport. Dance is not
a sport. Gymnastics is a borderline sport. Even the aforementioned
GHSA evidently doesn't consider it a sport, saying, "Girls
gymnastics is a state championship event . . . [again,
So, if none of the three major components of competitive cheerleading
is considered a sport, why should competitive cheerleading itself
be considered a sport?
Competitive cheerleading should be grouped with band and gymnastics
as a interpretive events.
That's not meant to take away at all from the accomplishments
of our local competitive cheerleading teams. We are abundantly
blessed with talent on both competitive and support cheerleading
squads, and the participants should be rewarded accordingly.
Just don't call it a sport.
Tim Thomas is a reporter for The Jackson Herald.
Jackson County Opinion Index