Felled fresh from the farm: the perfect tree

SATURDAY'S HERO

December 12, 1992|By ROB KASPER

We felled our own Christmas tree last weekend. Or maybe it was the other way around.

It was a family experience. Which means, of course, it was a struggle. That is how it is supposed to be. No pain, no shrubbery.

This is the third year we have read the newspaper listings (see accompanying story) and journeyed into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree. This year we didn't get lost on our way to the distant, muddy tree farm. On the way back, however, I took a shortcut that turned out to be a surprise tour of Stevenson Road.

Like a good helmsman, I never admitted to the passengers that I was slightly off course. But when their "Where are we?" questions were answered with a terse "Enjoy the scenery," I think the crew caught on.

I considered turning the car around, but when I looked out the rear-view mirror all I could see was 11 feet of Douglas fir. That was our tree, bundled and stuffed into the trunk, where thanks to the generosity of the gods and a few strategically placed bungee cords, it stayed during the extended journey home.

Cutting that tree down turned out to be a real contest. It took my wife, my two sons, 12 and 7, and myself the better part of an hour to find the tree, then wrestle it to the ground.

I came armed with some ingenious and not-so-ingenious tools. The smart tool, the tree-measuring stick, was one I created. It consisted of a 4-foot-long piece of wood with a long piece of string nailed to it.

The distance from the top of the stick to the end of the string was the height of our living room ceiling. The living room was where the tree would reside for the holidays, once we brought it in from the wilds.

I used my nifty tool during the tree-stalking part of our hunt. A family member would spot a likely looking candidate, and I would check its height.

The branches prevented us from holding the string at the exact trunk of the tree. But I had figured this into my tree-measuring equation. Back when I was in our living room, I pulled the bottom end of the string out about 3 feet to the side of the stick.

The idea was to get the string to resemble the slope of a Christmas tree. The device worked pretty well.

At the tree farm, scouts fanned out seizing trees. I followed with stick and string, measuring and ruling on whether the tree was tall enough to be a "keeper," worthy of consideration by the full family.

The tree we ended up with was the perfect height, if its trunk was cut flush to ground.

Cutting the tree flush to ground meant I had to stretch out underneath the tree with my belly on the ground and get to work. The kids wanted to saw as well.

So with three "wannabe woodsmen"' working the saw, felling the tree took about three times as long as previous years when I was the solo sawer. The experience also reminded me of what I want for Christmas, a new saw.

When the tree did come down, we didn't holler "Timber." We sighed with relief. Then the four of us carried it up to the edge of a cornfield. As we lifted the tree we discovered something new about our prize. Not only was this tree the perfect height and the ideal width, it was also the heaviest tree on Earth. Carrying it reminded me of moving a player piano.

In previous years we had carried our trees back from the field to the tree farm parking lot. But with this heavyweight, it was all we could do to lug it a few yards to a spot where the Christmas tree shuttle, a farm wagon pulled by tractor, hauled the brute close to the lot.

Once we got it home and lashed into the tree stand, the big boy did the "Christmas tree lean routine."

It leaned to the left. Then it leaned to the right. Then it swooned, threatening a lamp and a 20-year marriage. This is something all Christmas trees do, I think, as revenge for being held captive in living rooms.

By and by, the tree and its decorators calmed down. The lights were found. Most of them worked. They were strung around the tree. A few nights later, the ornaments appeared. The dressed-up tree seemed to take on new, regal bearing.

It didn't look crooked. Its aroma filled the house, soothing souls,

evoking memories.

And at night, right before bedtime, the youngest member of the household could be found, sitting at the base of the glowing tree, basking in its magic.

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