Today my father and I put the multi-coloured, trendy fleece sweater on our oh-so-fashionable beagle, threw the axe in the car, and hit the road in that most exhilarating of Christmas traditions: the hunt for the perfect tree.
First of all, let me 'splain something. We are not one of those families who pop down to the corner lot on december 22nd and purchase a moth-eaten, long-needled fir that was cut in September and spray painted "forest" green from an under-weight santa with Boonsfarm on his breath at a tree lot with macabre X-mas lighting. Oh, no. we go traipsing all over the county, crunching our way through fresh December snow over field and farm to find that perfect, shining spruce tree with a straight trunk, strong branches, and symmetrical boughs, all the while singing carols (badly) at the tops of our lungs, while our geriatiric, J-Crewed canine has so much fun smelling the runny babbits she can't decide to shit or go blind. Then we sieze upon that angelic tree and laugh merrily at the doleful tears of Bambi who weeps while we drag the most perfect Picea ever pollinated out of the enchanted forest.
Not really. Yes, we do cut our own tree. But that is because we are fortunate enough to live in a state that is cold enough for tree farms. All the poor saps south of the Mason-Dixon have no choice but to turn their homes into tinder boxes each year because all the trees for sale down their came from tree farms up here. And they were cut in September and painted green (I shit you not). So we head out to Joe's X-mas Tree farm on Reynolds Rd, 'Merry Christmas from Manheim Steamroller' blaring all the way, and the first tree the dog pees on, we buy. It's a tradition. Then we load it in the trunk, drive it home, and spend 3 hours trying to get the thing straight in the tree stand while mom says "No, a little to the left... not that left, the other left...that's it...a little more...a little more...no, back the other way...etc..." That's a tradition, too.
And for all you braindead environmentalists out there (I'm an environmentalist, just not braindead), farming Christmas trees is far less destructive to the land than growing wheat. It's not cutting down forests, it's agriculture. Specifically, long-term agriculture that gives farmers some reasonably secure, long-term investment possiblities, unlike a seasonal crop, which can bankrupt a family with just a couple of consecutive bad years, all the while creating some decent wildlife habitat.
So today Dad and I did our bit for the environment, Joe's family, the Christmas spirit and the beagle's bladder. It's on the porch, sitting in a bucket of water and aspirin to keep the xylem open, and it's perfect. (That's a tradition.)