The Palm King

A story of a determined palm enthusiast
and his effort to move "the big one!"

Gunter Schmidt, appropriately nicknamed "The Palm King", and his wife, Gaby, live in Ingleside-on-the-Bay, Texas, on a 2.5 acre tract.  They are members of the Palm Society of South Texas.   While they share a love for palm trees, Gunter has a greater love for the larger palms.  He has already transplanted one Canary Island date palm, shown below, in November, 1997, that was thought to be the largest he could ever move.  WRONG!

Nov17_03.jpg (28059 bytes)

(left to right)
Bob Durrwachter & Gunter Schmidt

Note:  Bob grew the tree at his house in Annaville, Texas, but moved to Iowa in 1997, and Gunter moved it to his property. 

 

jul12_01.jpg (20203 bytes)

Gunter & Gaby

 
 

 

(Click on highlighted words to see picture)


Beginning the week of July 6, 1998, Gunter found "the big one" and knew it would be a great addition to his Palm Garden.  (You can get an idea on what his acreage looked like in August, 1997, by clicking here.)  He found some Canary Island date palms in the older section of Corpus Christi, Texas, and began the process by hand digging around the base.  By Friday, July 10, he was ready for the big crane to come in and pull the palm out and load it onto his trailer.

WELL, the crane showed up around 1 p.m. and began to set up.  Gunter grabbed a ladder and assisted the crane operator in getting a line around the palm so the process of getting the palm out of the ground could begin.  After a few attempts of positioning the strap they were finally able to attach it to the pulley.  

The crane then went to work, huffing, puffing and grunting to no avail.  The palm would not move.  The crane pulled and pulled and even the back support legs came off the ground.  After no luck in that particular position, the operator moved the crane around and tried again.  Still no luck.  And again the back support legs came off the ground.  It wasn't looking good at this point.  Was the job just too big?  

Finally, the palm began to move so the crane was moved again and this time the effort paid off.  Down came the big one!  Okay, so let's get it on the trailer.   Wait!  What?  The crane cannot pick the palm up, it weighs entirely too much! No wonder it was such a chore to get it on its side. 

The height of the palm isn't that apparent until it is on its side and you can look from the root system.  Nor does the size of the root ball seem all that large until it is finally loose and ready to pick up and be taken to its new home.  It was agreed that a larger crane and a heavier trailer would have to be brought in to finish the job.  After trimming some of the fronds off, the palm was left "hanging" over the street but was not an obstruction to traffic, unless a semi came down the street!

On July 20, a larger crane (50 tons) arrived along with a flat bed trailer ready to get the "big one" out of the ground and on its way to the Schmidts' yard in Ingleside-on-the-Bay.  It didn't take any time with the larger crane to remove the palm and load it onto the trailer.  Gunter was so delighted to see the "big one" come out of the ground that he was jumping up and down saying, "This is like Christmas!"  (Many thanks to the homeowners for their patience.)

Gunter had hired another crane to be at their home so when the trailer pulled up, they could unload it and send the trailer back for the second and third palm trees he had also purchased.  The driver suggested someone drive behind him since the top of the palm was at the back end of the trailer and traffic behind him would not be able to see the brake and turn signal lights.  Gary Meiser and Ed Ladd volunteered and began to follow the palm to its new home.  Gunter stayed in Corpus Christi to supervise the crane on removing the second palm and to trim it up so they would be ready to load it on the trailer upon its return. 

The route to the Schmidts' took the trailer over the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge (the tallest bridge in the Great State of Texas!) and over the causeway through Portland, Texas, and then onward to Ingleside-on-the-Bay.  Gary Meiser noticed a shift in the load while they were on the causeway but Ed Ladd disagreed.  As the trailer was turning off the highway to the street leading to the Schmidts', the root ball of the palm slipped off the trailer into the middle of the highway.  Gary Meiser immediately said, "Go on, drive on by and act like we don't know them!"  Ha Ha Ha Ha  

Instead they went on to the Schmidts' home to get the crane (another 50 ton unit) that was supposed to already be there.  It wasn't.  Gaby Schmidt got on the phone and called the crane company who said the crane was on the way.  Sure enough they showed up and were able to hoist the palm back onto the trailer and tie it down, this time with many chains and extra straps.  The trailer continued on and Gary and Ed got out and cleaned the dirt off the highway.  Trouble in paradise continued as the trailer entered the Schmidt yard.  While making a sharp turn the trailer came to rest on top of the back tires of the cab and could not move.  The crane had to lift the palm off the trailer and turn it around so the heaviest weight was on the back of the trailer.   Now to get it only another 150 feet.  The trailer turned the sharp corner and backed up to the crane so it could be lifted into its new home.  A friend of the Schmidts, Rene Roeder from Rockport, Texas, helped supervise the planting.  At last the "big one" was in the hole and the crew began to cover up the root ball and straighten the palm.  All this time, Gaby Schmidt was walking around saying, "My nerves, my nerves!"

The trailer left to go get palm #2 and, this time, had NO problems.  It arrived in one piece and was planted with no difficulty.  The procedure was down to a fine art at this point. 

Palm #3 arrived with Gunter leading the way!  Palm #2 is a little shorter than the "big one" and Palm #3 is the shortest.  Gunter decided to square off the root ball on the final palm so it would not tend to roll off the trailer.  Should he have done that on the first palm?

After the third palm was planted the crew left and the Schmidts' friends stood around in awe.  Absolutely beautiful!  The next day Gunter got out and began cleaning off the trunks of each palm to perfect them to look like a "Vegas Palm!"  Gaby and Gunter have a house on 2 acres on a section of Corpus Christi Bay, a property which slopes from the house down to the bay giving a panoramic view of the water from the moment you step onto their place.

In the three years during which they have owned their place, Gaby and Gunter have planted forty or more Washingtonia robustas, and only last year, 30 Syagrus romanzoffianum...the latter with 8-12 foot trunks. In addition, there are literally hundreds of other palms and cycads scattered about the property, some juveniles still in pots, many others in the ground.

The 300 feet of bulkhead waterfront has a large boat house, and Gunter has built several decks which extend the property out over the water. Two of the most distinguishing features of the area are the palapas, very large structures, one of which covers a workshop, the other of which covers a deck where outdoor conversation and eating can be done. 

 

palm.gif (5142 bytes)LINKS


A Tour Of Palms In Corpus Christi
European Palm Society
Palm Society of South Texas

 

 

Constructed by Ed Ladd on July 13, 1998