Jigger’s Tree

Posted: May 21, 2016 in Inspiration, Things I Love
Jigger's Tree.

Jigger’s Tree.

In front of Paint Valley there stands a tree. It’s the one right in front of the high school principal’s office, and it’s not the same kind of tree as the rest that are planted around the school grounds. Here’s why . . .

Many of you have read my stories about Jigger, the man who was my principal, brother-in-law, and friend. Jigger passed away on May 21st, 1996, just a few days before school was dismissed for the summer.

It was a few days after Jigger died and I was home recovering from minor surgery, just taking it easy on my couch and trying to heal up both mentally and physically from everything that had happened.

As I tried to relax on my couch, though, I heard a car pull in the driveway. It was my friend Tom, who I’d soon realize had come to try and shake me out of my doldrums and depression. Tom walked in, stood in front of me, and the following conversation ensued:

Tom: “Get up. We have to go do something.”

Me: “Huh? Go where? Do what? I can’t move around. Doctor’s orders.”

Tom: “Screw the doctors. Get up. We need to do something important.”

Well, since I didn’t seem to have a choice I got up and went outside with Tom. And there in the back of his truck he had a small tree, a pole, and a plaque. I was then informed that we were heading up to Paint Valley High School to plant a tree for Jigger.

Upon our arrival at the school Tom pulled right up front, parked his truck, and announced that he’d found the perfect spot . . . right in front of Jigger’s office.

Me: “Right here in front? Don’t you think we should call someone and ask permission?”

Tom: “Nah, what the hell are they gonna do? Make us dig it up? Nobody would have the nerve to do that.” 

Good point.

And so it came to pass. Jigger’s Tree was planted, the pole and plaque were placed, and Tom was right.

Nobody said a word.

In retrospect it became clear what Tom was doing. He knew that I needed to get out and do something physical, something constructive, something to get my mind off the events of the previous few days. And it helped my sister, Jigger’s wife, as well. She watered Jigger’s Tree for weeks afterwards, nurturing it along as it grew.

Everyone at our school knew what Jigger’s Tree meant to me, probably because they’d see me standing in front of it so often. For years kids would ask me why I was standing there, and every single time I would tell them everything I knew about the man for whom the tree was planted.

A few years after Jigger died our high school was being renovated. Everything was being upgraded, including the outside landscaping. I was the high school Athletic Director at the time, and I was sitting at my desk working. I could hear the sound of machines working outside when a student came running into my office:

“Mr. Shoe! They’re going to tear down Jigger’s Tree!”

I ran outside and sure enough there was a backhoe ripping up trees in front of the school, and Jigger’s Tree was next in line. I jumped in front of the tree, and for a second (at least in my mind) I sort of looked like the Chinese guy in front of the tank at Tiananmen Square.

The guy on the backhoe stopped, hopped off, and proceeded to tell me that every single tree on the school grounds had to be removed and eventually replaced.

Not this tree, bro.

I stood my ground until one of the construction guys went to our superintendent, who fortunately understood completely and backed me up 100%.

Jigger’s Tree would stay.

It’s been 20-years since we planted that tree, and it’s still doing well. What started as a little 3-foot sapling is now well over 20-feet tall. And every year, at least once, I’d walk my classes over to Jigger’s Tree and tell them about him and what he meant to our school. I’d tell them about the thousands of students and teachers he influenced and how many of us wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for him.

Especially me.

And I do it because I think it’s important they know.

So do me a favor. If you knew Jigger and you’re walking with your kids near that tree, stop and tell them about him. Tell them what he meant to Paint Valley.

Tell them what he meant to you.

And you can even tell them the story of Jigger’s Tree.


  1. ando1977 says:

    Shoe, I visited Jiggers tree when I was home for the HOF induction , very touching..

  2. Joe Cowman says:

    Great read man. Thanks!

  3. bill Miller says:

    Great story, Dave. I never knew about the tree but will stop by and see it next time I’m out there. Jigger was a great man, great leader and truly cared about all of us.

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