We put up our tree last night. It’s a small Fraser Fir. The names comes from an old Germanic dialect which means Dude, you were totally ripped off. I much prefer another variety of Christmas tree called coniferous cheapus.
I often buy trees from the boy scouts who have a lot at a nearby church. One year I was so late that the place was already closed. The scouts had packed up their kerosene heaters and gone to celebrate the season by their warm hearths, mainly because it’s not easy to feel celebratory by a cold hearth. Back on the dark church lawn, aka frozen tundra, I stumbled across a forlorn Charlie Browner, which was so pitiful even the dumpster was too good for it. Like a mildewed sofa abandoned on a street curb, the tree had been left for any desperate soul who didn’t want to go home to a wrathful wife and disappointed children. I felt like Christmas had come early.
One advantage of waiting until late in the season, besides the fantastically low, low prices, is the weight of the tree. By the time I usually bring our tree home, five or six weeks have passed since it left a tree farm in the Smokies and traveled to Louisville on a big rig. Most of the moisture in the tree has evaporated, and a good percentage of the needles have fallen off. Its lighter weight eliminates some of the time and profanity usually generated when I adjust the tree so it doesn’t look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
My wife and I used to take our girls to a you-cut tree farm in the country, but this period in our idyllic lives didn’t last long. There was a window of just three years when both girls were old enough, but not too old to find the experience stupid, OMG, just stupid.
When I was a kid, we didn’t buy our trees. That would have been stupid, OMG, stupid. Instead, Dad usually grabbed a saw and went into the woods to cut one down. They were not spruces or even Scotch Pines that happened to be growing wild along a creek bank. They were invasive evergreens–ditch cedars–that needed to be eradicated even if we didn’t need a Yule tree. The trees were flimsy and downright ugly. But once we got enough tinsel on them, and my, did we like our tinsel in the Smith household, we almost couldn’t tell the difference between them and one bought from a lot. As long as we didn’t hang anything heavier than a feather on their weak branches, the trees held up. I occasionally still check out trees in ditches to see if they’d look good in our living room.
I have some experience on the other end of the Christmas tree life cycle, too. My brother and I, along with a couple of friends, got hired to plant them. Our employer, Keith, lived in the city, but he hoped to move back to our town when he retired to open a tree farm. Keith was known to be a little tight with his money, which meant he didn’t want to waste a single sapling. And if he was going to have to pay some kids to plant them, he expected them to plant each one, no matter what. The weather that Saturday morning was cold but tolerable. Since I had never planted trees before, the experience was almost fun–for the first ten saplings or so. The repetitive process grew old quickly: bore a hole in the dirt, insert sapling, pack dirt around sapling, move to next hole.
By the middle of the afternoon, the weather began to turn bad. First, it was just a light misting. Our clothes were getting a little damp, but no big deal. What kid doesn’t like to be out in the rain once in awhile? We still had a lot of saplings to plant, and Keith wanted them all in the ground before the day ended. The rain began to pick up; the temperature dropped. We were working along a terrace on a gently sloping hill, going as fast we could. Water began to stream down the bank into the holes faster than we could plug them with saplings. The rain intensified further. To quicken the process just a bit, I stuck two trees in one hole. Keith didn’t notice. We were becoming soaked. Our hands were getting cold and numb. The ground had now turned to mud. Cats and dogs were landing all around me. I began to put two trees in every hole. Still, the mountain of saplings to be planted hadn’t decreased. They seemed to be multiplying in the rain like Furbies in Gremlins. I began to stick three saplings in each hole. It seemed impossible, but the rain intensified further. At the top of the hill, animals, two by two, were boarding a large boat. Finally, with five saplings left, I stuck them all in one hole and yelled “Finished!”
I’m sure Keith eventually discovered what I had done, but I never saw him again. Who knows? Maybe those trees survived. Maybe they even look interesting. Just spit-balling here, but let’s say someone makes another Harry Potter movie. Let’s say it’s called Harry Potter and the Doctorate Years and they need a creepy forest with triple and quadruple trunked pine trees where Harry and the gang can go to discuss their dissertations. If that were to happen, I can give them directions to a spot just west of Eagleville, Missouri.
P.S. If you’re pining (get it?) for something a little more substantial, please check out my stuff here.