Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

We had a beautiful weather today. This is the type of weather that makes people move here. The sun shone all day, through partly cloudy skies. It wasn't warm, it only got to about 42 degrees, but sitting in the sun was lovely. The moderate climate is another big benefit to being surrounded by water.

I hope you all are having a wonderful Christmas. This is, like a lot of people, my favorite time of year. A few days before Christmas until after New Year is a magical time, when children and adults alike are full of wonder and joy, and everyone is specially nice to each other.

When I was young, somehow it became my job to get the family Christmas tree. We lived on a large farm, and had about 40 acres of trees. Mainly the trees were pines, what we called "bull pines", but technically were ponderosa's. There was a large section of fir trees, and, in a sheltered valley, a dim clump of hemlocks. The odd red cedar could be found scattered throughout the woods, too.

For the purposes of Christmas, only one of the firs would do. One year I did find a particularly full pine, and another a small hemlock, but usually I'd have to top a 20'-30' tall fir. The first year, I used only our double-bitted axe and a large bow saw. Placing the tools on my bobsled, I pulled the sled into the woods, and began the long process of finding the right tree. I'd been scouting all year, so I had some good candidates, but it's surprisingly difficult to pick a good tree from 20' below it, peering up through other trees in a forest.

That first year must have been charmed, I picked my tree, felled it with the minimum of trouble, sawed the top off, and hauled it home. Beautiful tree, decorated with tinsel, those big lights you only find outdoors nowadays, and lots of ornaments. The second year I got our tree I wasn't so lucky.

That year I decided that I wanted to do less work than the first year. Cutting down a 30' fir tree with a double-bitted axe was a lot of work. I loaded our chain saw on my bobsled, too. This was not the compact, light, easy starting saws of today. This was an old, heavy, cranky Homelite. I worked way harder cutting down my first tree that year than the year before! Starting the chain saw alone took just as long as cutting down the whole tree did that first year. Did you notice I said 'first tree'? Not only was it harder cutting down that first tree, but it was harder to control where the tree fell.

My first tree had fallen against another tree, and stuck at an acute angle. So, I was forced to cut down the second tree, too. Unfortunately, in the process of falling the trees, most of the limbs were torn off the first tree. So I was back to square one! I found another tree, and felled it, but the top was not really full enough to make a decent Christmas tree. Finally I found another tree, but it was really big. I ended up felling it any way, it was all my chain saw could do to cut through this huge fir. The top was perfect, and made a great Christmas tree.

I was no more than 12 years old, cutting down huge trees all by myself out in the woods with an axe and chain saw. I can't imagine the 12-year olds of today doing that, or being allowed to do that. Come to think of it, I probably shouldn't have been out there alone, either. But I sure got some great trees, and stories, too.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas on Whidbey Island.

1 comment:

ms. kitty said...

Hey, Dan and Rene, thanks for the great meal and good company last night at the Rock. I enjoyed meeting new people and having time to spend with longtime friends. Your generosity is legendary among your friends, you know!

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