For many years, my Christmas tree came not from a lot or a store, but from the acres of land where my grandfather lived. Each year after Thanksgiving he and I would meet at his house, dressed in Sorels, parkas and heavy gloves, grab a hand saw and head out into the woods.
Some years there was deep snow that we had to crush paths through. It was hard work and often we'd decide we'd settle for a tree that was not so good. Other years there was no snow, but hard-packed frozen pasture, the grasses matted down or frosted in place. But it wasn't a neatly grown or manicured tree we were after. What we were looking for was to cut the top from a 10- or 20-foot tree that had serious problems.
Some of the trees had insect infestations that would soon kill them. Some had grown too close to other trees and were stunted or mis-shapen. A few had viable limbs on only one side. Every tree we took was destined to be cut for one good forestry reason or another.
Depending on the temperature on the day we chose to go tree hunting, we could be out for a half hour or all afternoon. Most of the time, if it was warm enough, we just enjoyed each other's company. Grampa took every opportunity for a quiet lesson, whether it be algebra or woodcraft. I can't tell you how many times he'd stop me and just silently point to some wonder I hadn't seen, like a lodge in the middle of a beaver-created pond or the tracks of a bird in fresh powder snow.
There were times that we'd come upon two trees grown so close together that we'd cut both and drag them back to the house. There, he'd strip the dead branches from the side of one and drill holes in the trunk. Then the live branches would be cut from the side of the other tree. Ever the resourceful electrical engineer, he took copper wire and, inserting the branches into the holes, used the wire to fasten the live branches from one tree to the other, making one acceptable Christmas Tannenbaum from two nearly deceased spruces.
A dozen Christmases ago was Grampa's last. I purchased a "permanent tree" and I've not gone into the woods to cut a Christmas tree since.
On a chilly Thanksgiving afternoon, my brother and my dad cut a tree from our parents' back yard where the forester has been doing a lot of trimming. They got a good top and lashed it to my brother's car roof like a hunting trophy. It was very full and smelled so much better than balsam-scented anything. His daughters are blessed with the beginning of a string of memories like mine.
Watching the tree come down and hearing the whine of the chain saw, I swear I could hear Grampa's voice in my ear, saying of my brother's tree choice, "He got a good one, didn't he?"
If you enjoyed this post, please "rate" it.
Text and All Photos
Copyright © 2011 CoyoteOldStyle. All Rights Reserved.