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Make like a tree

posted Aug 21, 2017, 2:23 PM by Viktor Zólyomi   [ updated Aug 21, 2017, 2:23 PM ]
The phrase `make like a tree,' most often followed by the words `and leaf,' or alternatively, `and get out of here,' is a popular way of telling someone to go away. Yet the words `make like a tree' were first used in exactly the opposite meaning.

In 1839 in Greenwell, farmer Daniel Kruger became rich and famous thanks to his unbeatable fighting roosters, Carrot and Stick. By 1842 his cockfighting business had become so successful, numerous attempts had been made to steal his prized roosters from his farm. Since Mister Kruger was not afraid of dogs, the thefts were repeatedly and spectacularly thwarted by his pitbulls, Tomato and Cage. Despite the highly effective deterrent, desperate and envious people kept on trying to acquire Carrot and Stick.

In early 1843, the fighting roosters caught the attention of Con County's famous outlaws, the Salter Gang. The infamous Buford Salter led his entire gang into the farm under the cover of night with a brilliant plan. As soon as the dogs spotted the group and came running, he said to his gang, `quick, make like a tree.' His words were meant as an instruction to stand perfectly still, in an effort to confuse the pitbulls.

George Hill, one of the oldest members of the gang, feared that the pitbulls would relieve themselves on him if he were to pretend being a tree, and so he made off at a sprint. The dogs chased after him while the rest of the Salter gang stood rooted in place. Buford Salter remained unfazed by Mister Hill's inability to stick to the plan, and, taking advantage of the fact that the dogs were out of the way, he waved his gang to proceed further into the farm. Soon they had the famous fighting roosters in their possession and they quietly made it to safety while the painful screams of George Hill echoed across the countryside during the getaway.

Eventually, the pitbulls grew tired of mangling Mister Hill which allowed him to crawl back to the Salter Gang's hideout, albeit drenched in his own blood and missing several huge chunks of his own flesh, as well as an eyeball. Despite his horrific injuries, he was greeted by laughter and ridicule. `Hey Georgie, why don't ya make like a tree and leaf?' his fellow gang members would say to him, and would do so for many years to come. They even taunted him in public, especially in bars, which is the reason why the phrase `make like a tree' became a part of popular culture, and why George Hill eventually left the Salter gang entirely.

He was not the only one to leave the gang. Buford Salter managed to secure a hefty ransom for the fighting roosters from Daniel Kruger, which allowed him to transition out of a life of crime and into politics. With extensive funds at his disposal, he eventually became the Mayor of Con City, despite the scores of Con City residents insisting that he should `make like a tree and leaf.'