Interstate 20 drivers will no longer enjoy the northbound view, as it once was, when they pass mile marker 399.

Thursday evening, someone or some persons chopped down the historic mesquite tree which stood proud, braving the elements for more than a century.

Locals dubbed the swaying sapling the “hangin’ tree,” as it had a branch-span of more than 20 feet wide and was about 20 feet tall. It’s rather large base had been maturing for at least 100 years.

Locals called it “the hangin’ tree” for two reasons.

One, it had a branch, shaped perfect for hanging criminals and two, it was where local Texas Highway Patrol troopers would park to catch Interstate speeders.

Last year, law enforcement reported someone had sabotaged the area around the tree by purposely placing boards with nails driven through them, in hopes of troopers getting flat tires.

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Carson Bening said the mesquite would shade them during the day.

“It was a landmark, often to catch speeders,” Bening said. “It was a nice tree. We may lose our shade, but that won’t keep us from running 20.”

Heath Erichsen, also a Texas DPS trooper, said the fact someone cut it down was more of a disappointment than anything.

“More than likely, it could have been someone who was mad over a ticket,” he said. “I remember hearing about boards with nails set out near the tree. They were hoping to flatten our tires, I guess. It just didn’t need to be cut down.”

Local resident Amy Whittenburg said her husband called her to say the tree had been cut down.

“I thought surely not,” she said infuriated. “As I drove up on the tree, tears came to my eyes when I realized it was true. I circled back around to take a closer look, and whoever cut the tree down didn’t just make a clean cut, they hacked at it until it fell.”

Whittenburg said she did not think the culprit was from the county, or they would have understood the uniqueness of the tree.

If the suspects did so as retaliation from receiving a ticket, she said they deserved it.

“And I hope that the Highway Patrol manages to find you each and every time you are speeding through Parker County,” was the message she relayed to the chopper. “You obviously have no respect for [this] county. The only justice was that it is currently making a better hiding spot for the DPS!”

Whittenburg added they took away a monument and the act ruined her day.

“[It] was not only interesting and beautiful, but much loved,” she said. “We’ll miss the ‘old hangin’ tree.”

Alan Donaldson, Texas Department of Transportation maintenance supervisor, said TxDOT leveled the area around the tree on several occasions for troopers to have easy access to work there.

“That’s where troopers sit under the shade and run radar and where drivers would be ‘hung,’” Donaldson said.

He said the tree will eventually be taken away.

“It is a shame to cut something down like that. Especially on a state right-of-way,” he said. “It’s not hurting nothing and it’s not in the way, so we’ll leave it until we can cut it up and haul it away. It was definitely an old tree to be that big. It was just a very unique looking tree with its own character. What a shame.”

Donaldson added, if the culprit(s) are caught, TxDOT will file a damage claim and have them pay for the tree.

“We’ll possibly file charges against the suspect,” Donaldson said.

Currently, the hanging tree remains flopped over, as if discarded after stretching to the sky longer than most residents remember.









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