Bob Hinds planted his first shortleaf pine seedling on his farm east of Willow Springs in 1960. A few years later, Domien Meert planted the first of hundreds of thousands of evergreen and hardwood trees on his fledgling tree nursery near Festus. Al Lintzenich got into the act a few years later, when he started a Christmas tree farm near Gray Summit.
Tree planting got to be a habit for all three men, their families and even some of their neighbors. Lintzenich continued to plant trees for more than 40 years. Meert and Hinds are still at it. Each had different goals, and each has reaped different benefits from his labor, but they all have one thing in common—planting stock from the Conservation Department’s George O. White State Forest Nursery at Licking.
Hogs, Herefords and Pines
Growing trees was never one of Hinds’ top priorities. In the early 1960s, he was building a successful hog- and cattle-breeding operation that drew buyers from all over the world. Like farmers in all times and places, Hinds had to make use of every resource at his disposal to keep the farm in the black. That meant finding a use for hardscrabble Ozark acres.
“The places where we planted trees were just poor land,” Hinds recalled as we drove between patches of pine trees scattered around his farm, “It had nothing but blackjack and post oak on it and it was doing no good. Rather than put it in pasture, I thought it would be more productive over the years to put it in pine.”
The key words there are “over the years.” Each fall and winter for more than 50 years, Hinds, his wife, Jackie, and their children planted trees. The only exceptions were one year when a near-fatal automobile accident laid him up and another spent repairing damage from a tornado.
Hinds’ first planting was about 3 acres of shortleaf pine. By 1965, he had 52 acres planted. At a stocking rate of 400 pines per acre, that is more than 20,000 trees. All the seedlings were planted with an 11-pound steel planting bar. They also sowed pine seed from the state forest nursery. Hinds would bulldoze a strip of scruboak timber in October, then come back when snow was on the ground and broadcast pine seeds from the back of a horse.
Hinds, his children and occasional hired help planted about 10