The Blanco Republic
Comments and opinions on just about anything!

Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around The Old Oak Tree


My dad told a story a long time ago about a young man who was in prison and was going to be released soon. He wrote home to his father and told him that if he was still open to him coming back – after all the embarrassment he had brought on the family – to just tie a yellow ribbon on the tree in the back field. There was a railroad track that ran past the old family property and train passengers could see the tree as they went past. It was huge.

The warden came to the young man’s cell three weeks later and told him, “Son, you’re going home. You’re a free man now. Live right and don’t come back.”

The young man gathered up his few belongings and gave away what he couldn’t carry with him. Several hours later, he was finally released from prison and was standing on the landing at the train station. He bought his ticket, one way, for a continuing destination — just in case he wasn’t welcome. With trepidation, he boarded the train that would be passing by the family farm.

The journey had been a long one, and now the train was rounding the bend that would take him past his old homestead. Anxiously he waited to see if he could see the tree, and when it came into full view, it passed so fast he couldn’t hardly believe his eyes. He couldn’t see the tree!

He ran to the end of the car and jumped across the platform to the caboose and asked the Pullman for a set of binoculars. Quickly, before the train left view of the farm, the young man focused the binoculars on the tree. It was covered with yellow ribbons! Not one ribbon, but thousands of them were all over the tree! Every limb, every twig, even the trunk, had thousands of yellow ribbons tied all over the tree!

Tears welled up in the young man’s eyes and he started crying. The Pullman asked him, “What’s the matter, son?”

“I’m going home.” he replied.

“Well, what in ‘tarnation’ are you crying for? Shouldn’t you be happy?”, asked the Pullman.

“I am happy. I haven’t been home in a long time and I’m going home to see my dad.”, said the young man.

As the train pulled into the station and slowed to a stop, the young man stepped off the train – onto the platform – and stopped short. He couldn’t believe his eyes. There stood his dad, his brothers and sisters, his mom, and many of his aunts and uncles. It looked like the whole town was there to welcome him home. Tears began to stream from his eyes, and soon everyone was crying and hugging him.

The “prodigal son” had come home.

Only a father would love his son that much that he would forgive him all his foibles, misdeeds and sins.


I can’t remember the first time my dad told that story. Actually it was in one of his sermons that I remember. My dad was a preacher for over 50 years, and there were a lot of topics I remember, and recently found some of his notes on them.

I do know this much, his sermon on the “Yellow Ribbons” came out many years before Tony Orlando and Dawn came out with their hit song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree” back in 1973. Their song stayed 40 weeks on the chart, and was #1 for almost a month.

My dad’s sermon has remained #1 on my chart for over 40 years, and it’s still a classic.

Happy Father’s Day dad. I miss you a lot. I’ll remember to tell Gailane about you when I take him fishing.

Your son,


3 Responses to “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around The Old Oak Tree”

  1. I would like to use this “Tie the Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree” in a lesson for my high school students. Is it O.K. with you? What do I need to do to legalize it?

  2. Amy,

    You may feel free to use my article in your class. I would, of course, appreciate a linkback if you wish to do so. And, of course, you may also quote me and make reference to my website here at The Blanco Republic.

    Sincerely yours,

    Ernest O’Dell
    The Blanco Republic

  3. Yes, Mr. O’Dell I am working on curriculum for my district and would like to use it in a story/song connection for high reluctant readers. I think this story will satisfy my goal of keeping them motivated and involved since many can relate to its subject and theme.

    Thank you for allowing me to use your wonderful story.

    Amy Barnard

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