Thursday, December 1, 2005

O, Christmas Tree

Chopping down our own Christmas tree has been a tradition in our family since I was knee-high to a pine cone. At our farm, we kids would have an early breakfast and head out at sunrise, hiking to a pine forest to the north, carrying a rope, hacksaw, and lunch. The rope was for tying up my youngest brother and dragging him through the snow. The hacksaw came in handy at lunchtime, trying to digest whatever Mom had made for us. To be honest, we couldn't tell if it was stale since it was frozen solid.

I remember singing Christmas songs, mostly to make sure the hunters didn't mistake us for deer. If I sang just right, kinda nasally, it would vibrate my nose and warm it. Early on I had learned not to rub my nose to warm it up. In these temperatures, the tiny hairs inside the nose often froze, so if you rubbed your nose, you'd send icy needles into the sensitive lining of your nasal passage. The blood would drip on your jacket and boy, would Mom be mad.

After lunch we would choose a tree to bring home. This took a while because there was four of us, and we had never agreed on anything in our short, frozen lives. Eventually the boys would pick a really tall tree, maybe thirty to forty feet high. Since I was the oldest, it was my job to climb up and lop off the top of the tree with the hacksaw. Taking just the top of the massive tree made my sister happy, since we weren't really killing the tree, just maiming it. The tree would later die of bug infestation brought on by the decapitation, but again, she would point out, we didn't kill it. (She's now an attorney.) My brothers loved making me climb the thirty or so feet in the air to trim the tree. Try as I might, I was never quite able to hit them with the tree as it fell.

It was then time to haul the veggie carcass home. We'd take turns towing it with the rope. In the few years that there was no snow, the tree would become caked with mud, leaves, etc. This could be a real problem when we went through the cow pasture. Cowpies don't normally grow on pine trees, and don't do well in the heat of the living room.

We'd usually get home a little after sundown. Surprised and a bit saddened to see all four of us alive and intact, my parents would welcome us home before retiring for the night. Tradition held that we couldn't eat until the tree was up in the living room. Unfortunately, the tree was very often too wide for the doorway. We would push, shove and cram the beast until we had shredded the entryway and cracked enough branches to make the poor tree look like the cows came home right over the top of it.

But we'd get it propped up in the corner of the living room, tieing it to the curtain rod so it couldn't run away. As I sat there listening to my brothers argue whether it was standing up straight or not, I'd get to thinking how I couldn't wait to have my own kids so I could share this family tradition with them.


Clay (aka WriterDude) said...

Exceedingly funny, Annie. I could almost smell the pine sap.

I was finally lured to The Dark Side of artificial trees the second Christmas after marrying Lester. She found one that cost not much more than the "real" tree I insisted we put up our first Christmas together, from which I still find needles from time to time. My condition was that it had to look better than Charlie Brown's, and she came through. It has served us well for nine more Christmases, saving me $30-$40 bucks each year, which means I can spike the eggnog with Hennessey instead of the cheap stuff.

southerngirl said...

I, also, discovered this site from reading you on Dave's blog. Love the stories. Keep 'em coming!

Teri said...

Great post Annie...

"Saw" you on Dave's blog...just wondering...must have been a "midnight" supper by the time you got to eat!



Anonymous said...


PirateBoy here, checking in with the rest of the "usual suspects". I apologize in advance for a Barry Manilow parody regarding your snake posting on Dave's Blog. Always remember: We came to bury Manilow, not to praise him.

Anonymous said...

P.B. again;

I hate to be a neigh-sayer, but after ponying up all that effort, you must have laughed yourself saddle-sore. Perhaps trotting out to watch National Velvet might chsnge your attitude to a different tack? (Sorry, just feeling my wild oats tonight)

Sarah O. said...

Very funny post. (Great blog, too!) Love the part about singing nasally to warm your nose.

My best friend called a nursery the day after Thanksgiving, ordered a Christmas tree sight unseen and had it delivered and even set up for her! Brilliant!

But it's just not Christmas without struggling with a dying 200 pound plant, getting dozens and dozens of needle sticks and the rashes they produce, damaged car tops, damaged doorways, arguments over whether the dang thing's straight, picking it up in the middle of the night after it crashes to the floor, leaving glass ornament shards all over the room, some of which won't be found until you step on one years later, re-tying it to the curtain rod and snoring all season because you've discovered you've developed a Christmas tree allergy.