Artificial-Tree Family Has Now Gotten Real
As I write this in the pre-morning dark, the room is lit only by the bright white lights glowing from the boughs of this year's Christmas tree.
It's a 9-foot Fraser fir, full and well-shaped, a testament to going early in the season for those "first from the farm" trees.
It's our first real tree in almost 10 years. I had thought I was done with Frasers forever. But our artificial tree gave it up last year, so we had to decide this year whether to get real, so to speak.
For four Christmas seasons, I spent a lot of time with trees like these, but in a far different relationship. Those were the years I worked a part-time job at Home Depot in the outside garden section. By mid-November, as the night frosts grew more common, we'd work outside by the glow of the industrial overhead lights building tree corrals.
We have the good fortune in this state of having a vibrant Christmas tree economy. The "production line," so to speak, lies just a couple hours west, so what gets shipped is guaranteed to be fresh. If you love that Fraser fir smell, you'd be in heaven inside the trailer of a truck delivering Christmas trees.
When you work for a big chain retailer like Home Depot, deliveries come via tractor-trailer toting orders for several stores. One evening, as I got to work, I saw the truck idling around the side of the building with a fresh supply of trees. As we approached it, the driver was at the back, doors swung wide open, shaking his head.
A quick logistics lesson here. When you fill a truck with orders for multiple stores, you put the last store's order at the front of the trailer. Then you put up a divider of some making and place the next order. The last order on the trailer should be for the first store on the delivery list.
As we rolled up in our forklift and trailer to offload the trees, we too saw the problem. Whichever tree farm loaded the truck had stacked the deliveries horizontally, one on top of the other. Being the first stop, our store's order was at the top of the load -- and 53 feet in.
A buddy and I spent the next few hours crawling up a stack of trees, then crawling into a dark trailer on our bellies and hauling out - one at a time - our trees. The 6- to 7-footers were no problem. Even the 7- to 8-footers pulled out OK. But with the big trees, you couldn't just grab the base with one hand and pull. Those required both arms and inching your way out.
I went home that night and almost wrapped my sap-saturated arms around my artificial tree. I had that fresh pine scent for days.
Unlike selling grass seed and fertilizer and lawn equipment, selling Christmas trees is a family affair. A warm and fuzzy scene of families picking that special tree that would be the centerpiece of their holiday? As I learned quickly, families like to squabble when it comes to picking their tree. Fat or skinny? Tall or short? Fraser fir or Douglas? "Dear, this one has big bare spots." "Dear, THIS one looks like your mother." I begged for my radio to go off and get called away to a different department.
Trimming a family's tree also was always an adventure. You always need to put a fresh cut on the tree's base so it'll take up water well. And, of course, you have to trim away the lower branches so it'll fit properly into stands, especially the deep ones popular these days. You'd have thought I was cutting off dollar bills, the way people squirmed about losing branches. "You still going to charge full price?" Really? You still going to argue with a man holding a chain saw?
And when it came to tying trees to cars, every man was an expert. Some graciously accepted our offer to tie it. The women always did. But others? "Nah, just throw it up there."
I especially enjoyed tying trees to the tops of small cars. And when I say small, I mean VW Beetles. One guy in a Lexus convertible said, "Just throw it in the back." Why sure, I'll take this sappy, needle shedding tree and toss it on the leather seats of your $70,000 car. Have a nice day.
Now, can you blame me for being an artificial tree guy? But I got with the program this year and got real.
But we trimmed our own branches.
Contact John Nagy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 693-2507.
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