December 4, 2013



I suppose by now you notice that once in awhile I recycle a story. Some of my friends find this practice repugnant. I find it necessary because sometimes I can’t think of anything to say. And besides that, there are possibly new readers that haven’t seen the story.
This morning, I was returning from a road trip to Kansas and the forecast is for the first storm of the year. With Thanksgiving over, Christmas decorations going up in many places, and the local youth organizations advertising the sale of Christmas trees, I had a pleasant memory of a Christmas many years ago. As all of my stories, this one is true, although both Bill and Ginny, and Shirley and I have moved. Here goes. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed rereading it.
Kind of a long story. But you know how on Christmas, at least on TV, the family goes out and cuts a Christmas tree. That’s what our family always did. And I hated it. It never worked like it did on TV. First you had to find the chain saw. We run the only ranch in the world where you could lose a chain saw. Lots of times. I guess we have a general rule. Leave stuff where you used it last. The trouble is that if the guy who used it last is not around, it’s tough.
Last year it took two days to find the saw. And then you load everyone in the pickup and go down in the beautiful Badlands to find a tree. And the kids, who are now in their twenties, hate going with Mom and Dad to cut a tree. Cause they know what has happened every year since they were born.
We spot a perfect tree up on a high clay butte. Mom can see it is perfect. We climb up this slippery hill, pausing often so Dad can catch his breath, and have a smoke. As we near the tree, we see it is actually two trees. Both one-sided. Ugly things with not near enough branches. Dad swears and starts down the hill.
Most years we spend about $30 in fuel and a half day looking for a tree. Once we find a tree, a tree, not the perfect tree, the fun really begins. By now the gas cap has jiggled off the saw and we are out of gas. Or the rope comes off when you go to start it. Or the chain jumps off when it sees the tree. Eventually the saw ends up in a washout and the tree gets run over by the pickup. Mom and the kids get upset and Dad swears never again.
But this year, thanks to our neighbors, it went smooth. Bill and Ginny live up the road and we borrow stuff from them. Cause that’s what we do out here. We borrow. See, Bill and Ginny don’t stay all winter. They go south when the last goose flies over the Badlands. Oh, they are Christmas-spirited. They put up a tree. They invite us all up for Christmas supper. We exchange gifts. It is actually the most pleasant Christmas party of the year. We drink fine wine and eat fine food. Life is good.
But, like the wild geese, when the lake freezes over they are out of here. I knew they were gone. I was unloading hay above their house and you could see it was abandoned. I slipped down to see if they left any food in the fridge. They didn’t. And there stood their tree. Abandoned in their living room. It still had the lights on it. It was already cut. It wasn’t at the top of a clay butte. I didn’t need the chain saw. Oh, I made a little mess. When I drug it out of the house. I spilled a little water on the carpet. Yes, I took the stand too. And I lost a few needles as I hurried through the house. You hate to get caught stealing a tree. But I made it! And it fit just perfect in our dining room!
Merry Christmas Bill and Ginny! And thanks!