Years ago, there was an enormous gladiolus farm along U.S. 33, just north of Goshen. Its acres were covered with flowers — red, pink, yellow, purple and shades in between. The bulbs, which were the real cash crop, were sold around the world to foreign dignitaries, including minor royalty. During the peak of the season, these bulbs accounted for 25 percent of outgoing mail from Goshen. The flowers growing from these bulbs stretched along the road, and away from it, in stripes of color. It must have been beautiful.
Across the highway, and the railroad, set back from Kunderd Street — named for the gladiolus hybridist and farmer — an elm tree was slowly growing, year by year, larger and larger. By the time it was big enough for someone to climb into it and look across the tracks and the road at the fields of flowers, the gladiolus boom was probably past high point. As the tree continued to grow and expand and spread, the flower farm was contracting and declining.
A young family moved into the house where this pillar of a tree was growing. Children were in and out of the house, and in and out of the nearby barn, and ran through the shady grass beneath its arching limbs. A tractor rolled in and out of the barn, too, tilling up patches of earth out beyond the considerable morning shade that this tree cast.
Asparagus and corn, melons and raspberries were carefully tended out in the sun by parents and kids, and no doubt they all came to cool themselves beneath the green canopy of this elm. The fruits and vegetables were sold from a simple roadside stand along Kunderd Street, since at that time it still crossed the tracks.
The kids also crossed the tracks to play with kids from the gladiolus farm, and they all came back this way as well. Some of them surely eyed the tree as perfect for a tree house. If only there was an easy way to get 20 feet up to the first massive branches. A rope could be thrown over a branch for a swing, anyways.
A daughter wanted a horse, and the parents consented. She rode it out of the barn, which was now over-topped by elm limbs. On the horse’s back she was able to touch the lowest hanging of the feather-ribbed leaves. She guided the horse across Wilden Avenue, down along the Elkhart River, with permission of the farmer of course. The farmer was a local Chevy dealer, who lived in the big brick Victorian farmhouse at the end of the lane.