|Samuel, Drew, Allison, Brianna, Stephanie|
|Dragging the Tree|
|The Cramer-Mills Tree|
|Playing With Ilya|
|Wait for Me!|
We are halfway up the road to Roman Nose and several inches of packed ice slicks the gravel road. The snow is not so deep, though. It's the day after Thanksgiving and we have a $5 Forest Service permit to cut a Christmas tree. What a better way to expend some energy in the fresh mountain air after a day of feasting.
Allison, Drew and Brianna follow us in their Rav. We have their friends, Samuel and Stephanie, a hand-saw, ax, tree permit and various guns. Drew is hauling all four of our dogs, two huskies and two German Short-haired Pointers. This is something we haven't done since our last Christmas in Montana back in 1997.
Pulling off the road, Todd gets the Blue Goose stuck. Not that he meant to. Our daughters relish the opportunity to turn the tables on him. "Dad says he lives to embarrass," Brianna teases. Another tree seeker stops and we attach our tow-rope and soon our truck is unstuck with a little "girl power" pushing.
The dogs romp up and down the road. Grendel is running too fast and he face-plants, skinning his chin. He shakes it off and continues to run just as fast. The huskies live for snow and they are in frozen heaven. Ilya catches snowballs that Alli tosses to him. Jaspers runs just as reckless as Grendel. Bobo keeps up with the boys and smiles as much as a dog can smile.
Selecting the "right tree" is a lot like arranging new furniture in the living room. Only the drifts are deep. We split up which is a mistake as we call out to each other, "What about this one?" We all converge, discuss pine versus fir, long branches versus short. Drew is looking for one that is "greener." I think we each have a different tree in mind. Being the one who will deck the tree, I call trump on my preference.
Finally we find one up a steep slope. It's Drew's discovery. Allison goes up to inspect. The rest of us stand below and tell him to shake it so we know exactly which one he's eying for the ax. Alli agrees it's a good one. Brianna and Stephanie go up the slope to make sure. Confirmed. We claim the tree.
Echoes from the ax rebound down the canyon. We have a saw but Drew had his heart set on chopping down the tree. And he succeeds. The three girls drag it down the slope, falling into knee-deep drifts and sliding the final embankment.
Like trophy hunters we gather around our tannenbaum for photos. It's a lovely tree, we all coo. It smells so good, so fresh. Part of the reason that I wanted a fir was because they are stronger scented. We take our tree down the slick road, strap it into the back of the Blue Goose and take more photos.
Back at the ranch we realize that the tree is too tall. No matter, we can trim the stump a foot or two. Rekindling an old tradition was just the transition we needed to go from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Despite my family all claiming it's too early, they also know how much I love my tree. And Christmas music.
But I'll wait until they Missoulans leave Sunday to blast "O Tannenbaum."