Fort Worth, Texas (WFAA) - For the last three decades, the people of Fort Worth have had a special connection with a scraggly tree on a hill off Interstate 30.
Every holiday season people decorate the lonely mimosa, which goes by many names -- including the "Lone Star Tree," the "Happy Tree" and the "Angel Tree." But to Leslie Gordon, it will always be the "Homeless Christmas Tree."
"It just has this connection with people. Everyone feels like it belongs to them," Gordon said.
Gordon wrote the book "The Homeless Christmas Tree" in 2005. Depending on who you ask, the tree's origin story may vary. But Gordon says it all started with a woman named Carla Christian 30 years ago.
"Carla was homeless for a time and when she got out of that she still felt a connection to the homeless people," Gordon said.
So Gordon believes Carla started decorating the tree so the homeless would have something to call their own. As the years went on, the tradition grew. Strangers and families would pull over along the busy highway and decorate the unlikely tree for whatever holiday was around the corner.
In 2006 Carla passed away, and a few years later the tree started to whither and die.
"It's just so sad for Fort Worth," Gordon said.
The tree is now dead. Only a stump is left with tatters of decorations still clinging on. Gordon says she was told the tree had a disease called "mimosa wilt," but she's fearful all the decorations may have unintentionally hurt the plant.
"It's just so sad," Gordon said.
For the author, the final chapter of the tree's life was heartbreaking. But out of the blue a sequel was born.
"Well this tree specialist approached us and said they'd collected seeds from the original 'mama tree' and planted eight saplings," Gordon said.
One of those saplings was planted up on the hill right next to the original tree. The man who planted it was Carla's son.
"That was neat for him. That hill and that tree are a connection to his mom," Gordon said.
The young tree still has a long road ahead and Leslie Gordon is on a mission to get the word out, asking people not to decorate it for several years until the tree has grown and become strong.
"The little branches can't handle all that. And once you can put stuff up I just ask people are good stewards and take the decorations down after some time," Gordon said.
It may take quite a while, but Carla's message of looking out for the homeless will continue to grow on a hill on I-30 for years and years to come.
You can find Gordon's book "The Homeless Christmas Tree" at any Barnes & Noble store in the DFW area. A signed copy is being sold at Lone Star Antiques in Haltom City. You can also order it online.
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