It was the second week in December. I was fourteen or fifteen years old and I was taller and, some even said, a bit more mature than most my age. My father would suggest there were lapses in the maturity of my judgment.
At the time, my father was the local postmaster and worked five-and-a-half days a week. My mother, who taught at my school, and I rode the school bus daily from the post office where mother usually left her car.
When we got home, it was my job to go down to the hog lot and feed the pigs and other chores. As we left the post office, my father suggested, “When you go down to feed the animals, see if you can find a Christmas tree.” I agreed. In the past, my father would take me along to find a suitable tree, but now I was being trusted to find the “perfect” tree on my own.
I took the tractor and trailer from the house and drove the two miles to the hog lot. It took about 30 minutes to take care of the pigs, including getting corn out of the Corn Crib.
Then it was time to hunt for that Christmas tree. There were dozens of small cedar trees along the woods around every field. They looked great from the field, but often only had branches on one side; the side against woods would be nearly bare—they were not full trees.
Although they make very attractive Christmas trees, cedars are nasty to handle and decorate. The needles are very dense and sharp. But it was Mother’s favorite tree for Christmas—so that was settled.
As I left the corn crib, I saw a cedar across the feed lot along a fence row. It was tall, 25-to-30 feet, full and beautifully shaped. “That is the kind of tree I want to find,” I thought to myself. Then I had another thought—and that is where my judgement faltered.
I tied a long piece of twine to the handle of my saw, and the other end to my belt loop, and then began climbing the perfectly shaped, 25-ft tree. Climbing a cedar is not easy—the limbs are closely spaced and I had to work my way up, sort of like a snake twisting between the limbs. And, did I mention that the needles are sharp? About eight feet from the top, I tugged on the twine, hauled the saw up, and began to cut. Soon, the top tumbled to the ground. I dragged the heavy tree into the trailer and headed back to the house.
When he got home, my father complemented me on finding such a nice tree. He asked where I got it, and I simply said along a fence on lower end of the farm. Mother was pleased, and within a day it was all lighted and decorated. It was one of the nicest trees we had ever had.
Christmas passed uneventfully. Then, about two weeks into January, my father and I were working at the feed lot mending fences and cleaning around corn crib. As we were getting ready to leave, my father stopped, looked across the field toward the “topless cedar.”
He asked sort of casually, “Did we have a storm recently? Looks like that cedar was damaged.” But my father was quick to put two-and-two together. He looked at me. “That’s where you got the ‘perfect’ Christmas tree!” He was not pleased!
I just sort of hung my head in acknowledgement. He just shook his head and said, “That used to be a really pretty cedar.” But, there were no direct consequences, except he now had another story to add to his collection of bone-headed things I had done. I did note, however, whenever he told these stories, he laughed.