The Tree of Love

Apr 11, 1998

RAY: And the... The new puzzler. Now, I'm just going to recite this one because I liked the way it was written.

TOM: So, it's perfect as it is.

RAY: Well --

TOM: Almost.

RAY: Well, I can't really just recite it. I'll have to mess around with it.

TOM: Of course.

RAY: This was sent to us from a guy named Bob Powers from Shreveport, LA.

TOM: Hmm.

RAY: And I'll just read it and throw in the obfuscations.

TOM: Yeah, the necessary obfuscations. I was going to say that it's unlikely that a listener could reach the levels of obfuscation that you can.

RAY: Well, it's pretty obvious that Robert J. Powers is well schooled in the --

TOM: Oh really --

RAY: In the obfuscation department. Here it is. A teenage boy smitten with a teenage girl, in his high school freshman class, made his feelings known. Overjoyed at finding them reciprocated, he took pen knife to a young hard wood in the vicinity.

TOM: Um hmm.

RAY: And carved their initials with a heart, five feet up the tree's trunk. Carved their initials within a heart, five feet up the tree trunk.

TOM: I see the puzzler already.

RAY: By their senior year, however, the girl's ardor had cooled.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: She took her diploma, went away to the big city and married. The boy was crushed, inconsolable.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Bidding his family farewell, he took his small savings that he got from selling lemonade, bought a bus ticket, went to the East Coast and shipped out in a menial job on a broken down freighter.

TOM: Well.

RAY: What a story, huh?

TOM: Wow!

RAY: Can you see it now?

TOM: I can see it, man.

RAY: Twenty-five years later, captain of his own vessel, owner of a small freighter fleet and with a major interest in a few oil tankers, he indulged in a nostalgic whim and returned for the first time ever, to his old hometown.

TOM: Wow.

RAY: Imagine his joy, when he discovered his old sweetheart living there, now a widow.

TOM: Oh.

RAY: One thing led to another. The flame reignited, and one day they searched for their tree.

TOM: Wow!

RAY: It was not hard to find. It was near a rock, near a river, and they immediately found it.

TOM: Sure. Yeah.

RAY: Now, here's the puzzler. If the tree had added 35% to its height in the first 15 years of his absence, 10% in the following in the five years and 2.5% in the ensuing eight years, how far up the trunk did they have to look to find the carving with their initials in it.

TOM: Oh, wo-ow-ow-ow! Man. So, the facts are --

RAY: The facts --

TOM: In his freshman year, he draws the heart on the tree.

RAY: Three years later --

TOM: Three years later --

RAY: She dumps him.

TOM: She dumps. He goes away for 25 years, comes back and then, they go back to the tree which has added all these different pieces at 35%, 20%, whatever.

RAY: So, when he returns, they go looking for the heart and I'm stating that the tree added 35% to its height in the first 15 years of his absence, 10% in the following five years and 2 and 1/2% in each of the remaining eight years of his absence.

TOM: OK. These are all percentages of the original height of the tree?

RAY: Of course.


RAY: So, the question very simply is --

TOM: What kind of a tree was it?

RAY: Why did she dump him in the first place? Didn't she know he was going to become a sea captain?

TOM: He wouldn't have --

RAY: If she hadn't dumped him. He had something to prove.

TOM: He would have married her and right after he graduated from high school, he'd have gotten a job at the hardware store and he would have been a boring, like the rest of us, husband.

RAY: Right.

TOM: Instead of having been a swashbuckling --

RAY: Yes.

TOM: Sea captain.


RAY: I thought this was a good puzzle for all the kids.

TOM: All the kids doing math problems?

RAY: Right, whose brains are a little bit creaky.

TOM: But, you know, and the only ones who would get this right would be the kids in aggie school.

RAY: Aggie school, right.

TOM: Right?

RAY: Yes.

TOM: All those mathematicians at MIT would get it wrong.

RAY: Right, and the kids in agricultural school would know --

TOM: Agricultural school would go, bingo.

RAY: -- that trees grow from the top. And the heart that was five feet above the ground is still five feet above the ground.

TOM: I was shocked to hear this. How can something grow from the top? There is no roots up there. There ain't no water up there.

RAY: There isn't no roots.

TOM: There isn't no roots up there. I mean, how can that be?

RAY: Well, it's one of those mysteries.

TOM: Huh? It is, huh?

RAY: The tree gets bigger in girth. But if a branch starts off at five feet above the ground, a carving, that's where it stays. Pretty much.

TOM: And it just adds to the top.

RAY: There you go.

TOM: To the top of what?

RAY: To the top of the tree.

TOM: But what if you did this when the tree was one foot tall? And you carved something down at the very bottom that was 2 inches off the ground.

RAY: It would still be there.

TOM: It would still be there.

RAY: Yeah. I don't believe it either.

TOM: That sounds like bull to me.

RAY: Well, like I said, i don't really believe it either but, it's close enough.

TOM: Geez, just take my word for it. Wow.

RAY: And who's going to win our 10th anniversary Car Talk T-shirt this week?

TOM: I don't know. The winner is Father, ooh, Father Mark Burlani from the Sacred Heart Church in Park, Kansas.

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