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Mountain Home Magazine

Trimming the Tree

Nov 30, 2020 02:15PM ● By Maggie Barnes

“It’s gone?” There are rhetorical questions like, “Is it raining?” when your slightly damp friend comes in. Then there are rhetorical questions like, “It’s gone?” when you are looking at your spouse across a yawning abyss in the ground where an evergreen tree was supposed to be.

Robert, the crown prince of understatement, responded with, “It would appear so.” My shock quickly gave way to anger.

“Somebody stole our Christmas tree!”

“Stole” was probably too strong a word, as we hadn’t technically paid for it yet. But we did adorn the spruce with fluorescent yellow strips of plastic, each bearing our last name, in the proud tradition of tree-taggers throughout the millennia. Lots of yellow tags. That thing looked like a unicorn at its tenth birthday party.

“Who steals a tagged Christmas tree?” I demanded of the gray sky above the farm. “That’s a puppy-kicker for sure. Anyone who steals a tree is an orphan-beating, nun-insulting, puppy-kicker!”

Bob hiked an eyebrow. Living with me, that eyebrow gets a workout. He really should attach his Fitbit to it.

Whatever my opinion of the low life scum that took our tree, we were faced with the same dilemma. It was already the second week of December and we, a family famous for their yuletide festivities, were without a tree. An extensive search of the tree farm was undertaken. I was half-hearted about it. This was the holiday equivalent of going to the prom with your second choice. I was going to make the best of it, but I was not happy.

We found a tree that was perfectly lovely and near to fourteen feet tall, a prerequisite for making the cut, so to speak, for our home. As usual, it took the two of us to pull it out into the road the farm folks had plowed around the rows of trees. In fact, it took the two of us and two of them. And a sled. Pulled by a four-wheeler. Truth is, it was one of the harder extractions I could recall. I was sure it was my frustration with the day that was draining my strength.

Once home, we attempted our usual dragging of the tree through the front door. It barely moved. We took a little break, held on tighter, and pulled harder. It came this time, but we were both breathless with exertion before we cleared the foyer.

Straightening up, Bob gasped, “This thing has to weigh 300 pounds.” Having never tried to lift 300 pounds before, I had to take his word for it. We looked at the cleared spot in the front room, looked at the evergreen, and looked at each other. Bob shook his head in resignation and said, “We’re gonna need mutual aid.”

For those of you who grew up in non-EMS families, allow me to elaborate. Mutual aid is the term used when a fire department is facing a situation that requires more staffing and equipment than they can throw at it. The surrounding departments bring their people and stuff and together they work on solving the problem. Bob loves mutual aid as an emergency response tactic. He hates it when it comes to asking for help at home.

So, we made some calls. Pals Derrick and Rob were the only idiots, I mean, the dear friends who actually answered their phones. Standing in the foyer, the two of them tugged at the tree and gave us a look that said, “How did you ever think…?” I told them I had never had a hernia and wanted to try one out.

I did some guiding and some pushing, but the menfolk did all the heavy lifting. What looked to be a nice, full evergreen in the forest had rapidly become dense and impenetrable in our living room. By far, it was the heaviest tree we had ever brought home, and we all breathed easier once it was in place and restrained with yards of high-gauge fishing line.

We had missed noticing that the shape was not ideal. (I told you my heart was not in it!) In fact, several branches poked out oddly on all sides, giving the tree a disorganized look that hardly jived with ‘peace on earth.’ Bob keeps a pair of heavy-duty clippers on hand for matters such as this, and I handed them to him. But he shook his head and started up the stairs for the garage.

That is when I started to worry.

My apprehension was justified when my beloved pushed back through the door with the hedge trimmers—the massive, powerful, meant-for-outside-use-only hedge trimmers, complete with forty feet of orange industrial extension cord.

Nat King Cole was trying to tell us about Jack Frost nipping our body parts, but the roar of the trimmers drowned him out. It was a surreal juxtaposition to view the silent gentleness of the snowfall and the serenity of the Holy Family nestled in the manger all the while dodging branches that were ricocheting around the room.

“Yuletide carols being sung by a…”

“Look out!”


“Watch your head!”

“…and folks dressed up like…”



While I buried my face behind a couch pillow, Derrick and Rob were leaping about the room, catching severed tree parts in mid-air and directing Bob to the spots that were still asymmetrical. They were snapping photos of the operation, admitting that they had never thought of bringing power tools to such a mundane task, and praising Bob’s carving skills. (To the women in their lives I now apologize, belatedly, but sincerely.)

Once the tree was declared “even,” the guys helped us clean the wreckage out of my living room, shook the remnants out of the trimmer, and wound up the orange cord. Which was good, as the clash with red and green was making my head hurt. Thanks and handshakes all around and our helpers were heading for the door.

Rob did make a point of saying that whenever we were planning to get our tree next year, he was busy that day. Odd.

But all in all, it was a grand night for mutual aid.

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