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The Christmas tree farmer

Have you got your Christmas tree yet?

There’s nothing quite like tramping out in the crisp snow on a fine winter day and picking just the right Charlie Brown tree for the annual homage to gift giving.

Well … I’ve had enough of that. I have literally harvested thousands of Christmas trees in my day, so I’ve had enough snow trudging in freezing temperatures and north winds thank you very much. We have a wonderful artificial tree, but don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anyone getting a tree.

I’ve just had enough of it.

When I was young lad we had a Christmas tree limit.

A Christmas tree limit is, or was, a parcel of Crown land that the Ministry of Forests allowed us to ‘farm’ for Christmas trees. We would harvest about 1,000 trees every year. Essentially what we were doing was juvenile spacing.

It was a family affair. The harvesting took place on the weekends starting in mid- to late-November and running into early December. My parents would pack us up into the truck, complete with chainsaw and axes in the back, for the trip to the limit.

My father would do the chainsaw work. For some reason he didn’t trust a 13-year-old boy with the saw … can’t figure that one out.

My dad would trudge through the forest looking for good looking Christmas trees. Remember, this was the forest, not a Christmas tree farm. The good Christmas trees were usually at the top of 15- or 20-foot tall tree. He would fall the tree, lop off the top six or seven feet for the tree and move on.

Then my brother would spring into action. It was his job to brush the rest of tree … cut the branches off the remaining tree trunk. That was a requirement from the ministry to help minimize fire risk. Being the older brother, he was allowed to use the axe.

It was my job to haul the trees out to the road that snaked through the forest. Remember, this was usually being done with a foot of snow on the ground and frost nipping at our heels. Even so, I got pretty good at it and could haul three or four trees at a time.

My mother’s job was to keep the home fires burning … literally. We would build a campfire and she would keep it nice and warm. Lunch time consisted of sandwiches that she prepared and coffee from a thermos.

It was the first time I drank coffee and since it was an adult drink, it was delicious for a young kid who felt all grown up.

My sister usually got to stay home because we couldn’t fit all of us in the truck. No crew cabs back then.

Near the end of the day, we would load the trees onto the truck and haul them out to a landing near the highway. When we had all the trees at the landing, a transport truck would come and haul them off to Lethbridge where they were sold.

We would also bring a bunch back to the farm and sell them locally. The field in front of our house suddenly became a forest as we stuck the trees up in the snow and people from town came and got their trees.

As a young kid, I pretty much hated the expeditions. Every weekend before Christmas I was heading off to the wilderness while my friends were doing exciting stuff, like watching All Star Wrestling on TV or hanging out in someone’s rec room.

It wasn’t until I was older that I put two-and-two together: There were always lots of presents under the Christmas tree and a wonderful big turkey dinner on Christmas day.

Merry Christmas.

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