Tree-mendous Troublemakers

TO WIT

December 06, 1992|By DAVE BARRY

'Tis the holiday season -- a time when writers openly use words like 'tis; a time when throngs of excited parents bustle into the Toys Sure "R" Costing "U" Plen-"T" store and club each other with sturdy Tonka trucks in fierce holiday struggles over who gets to purchase the only remaining unit of the toy industry's hottest new product concept, Baby Fester Face ("The Doll That Develops Real Boils!"); a time when festive gatherings of loud, eggnog-impaired people attempt to sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" despite the fact that nobody ever remembers what my true love gave to me after day five:

" . . . drummers milking

"eight leapers leaping

"seven figgy puddings

"six snakes a-molting . . . "

Yes, the holiday season is a time of traditions, and here in the newspaper industry we have a cherished tradition of reminding you, the public, of all the holiday-related ways in which you can get injured or killed.

So today I want to discuss a potential holiday disaster that was brought to my attention by reader Debby Denniston, who sent me an Associated Press article that appeared last December in the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union. The article begins:

"FREMONT, Neb. -- A 10-year-old boy trying to keep his dog from throwing up on a rug was pinned when the family Christmas tree fell on top of him."

This incident should come as no surprise to anybody who has ever owned a dog. Throwing up on rugs is the primary function of dogs, as a species. If you were to put a dog in the middle of the Sahara, the dog would immediately start trotting in a straight, purposeful line, and it would continue night and day, traveling thousands of miles if necessary, defying exhaustion, starvation and thirst, until it located a rug, which it would throw up on.

So anyway, when this Fremont, Neb., dog -- whose name, according to the article, is Pookie -- started to woof, the boy shoved him off the rug. Naturally this caused the Christmas tree to fall. Christmas trees have some kind of inner-ear problem that renders them incapable of standing erect for any significant length of time. In their natural forest environment, they grow horizontally on the ground, like zucchini.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Christmas trees are known to be among the most vicious members of the plant community. They become especially hostile after they've spent weeks tied up tightly at the Christmas-tree sales lot while holiday shoppers repeatedly lift them up and pound them down to see if any needles fall off.

So when Dad brings a tree home, cuts its ropes and tries to jam it into one of those ludicrously flimsy, ashtray-sized "tree stands" -- which are barely adequate to handle a small floral centerpiece, let alone an enraged, full-grown conifer -- the tree will immediately start lunging violently in all directions, while Mom, trying to be helpful, says, "OK, now it's leaning to the left. . . . OK, now it's leaning to the right. . . . OK, now it's leaning to the left. . . .

Meanwhile Dad, somewhere down on the floor under the thrashing branches, pine sap smeared in his hair, is fighting for his life, bleeding from hundreds of tiny pine-needle stab wounds and saying many nonholiday words. At least that's the tradition in our house.

But getting back to the Associated Press article: There the boy was, alone in his house, trapped under a highly aggressive Christmas tree. Fortunately, Pookie saw what was happening, trotted alertly over to the boy, and, in the heroic tradition of resourceful canines Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin, threw up.

No, seriously, the article states that the boy was able to reach a phone and call 911, whereupon "police and firefighters pulled the tree off the boy, who was not injured." The article does not state whether the police used tranquilizer darts on the tree.

So fortunately this story has a happy ending, which is good, because the holiday season should be a happy time. So before we create the impression that there's nothing more to this very special time of year than tree attacks, we'd like to wish you the best, and leave you with this holiday thought: Both holly and mistletoe are poisonous.

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