In praise of the hunt

Trent Ernst, Editor


We have a fake tree. And it’s not my fault.

I know that I just wrote that neither artificial or real tree is better, but I have to say that, given the choice, I want to have a real tree, and I don’t want to buy it from a store.

I don’t have a choice in the matter, so every year for the last few years I’ve hauled the plastic tree from the basement, humming Radiohead all the while.

But I miss the days of the hunt, heading out into the bushes to find that perfect tree that never was.

But that is part of the charm. Rather than a cookie cutter Christmas tree, the ones found in the bush have character. They have flaws. They are never perfect, and that’s what’s so wonderful about them.

When I was growing up, the trees were typically store bought, but real. We lived in the middle of the prairies with not an appropriately sized pine tree to be seen for many a mile.

But when I moved up here? I was surrounded by them.

The very first year I was here, I remember going out to find a Christmas tree with my sister, as I was staying in her basement at the time.

It was late November or early December when we headed out. The weather was moderately cold, but, as happened this year, it had warmed up a few days before.

We went looking for a tree up by sanctuary valley, the kids loaded in the back of her mini-van.

We were about halfway to Sanctuary Valley when we spotted a stand of trees. Jerrilyn pulled over, and we tumbled out of the van to find the perfect tree.

It was surprisingly easy. A few were rejected, but there was one that, while not perfect (none ever is) would do very nicely. Not too big. Not too small, with a full compliment of branches. Sure, the backside was a little thin and scruffy, but if you positioned it just so, nobody would ever notice.

We lopped down the tree with … well, in my mind it was a butter knife, but I’m sure it was a little handsaw, not really designed for the task. It took far too long, but we finally managed.

We loaded the tree into the back of the mini-van, stacking her kids around it as best we could, and then headed home.

Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared for the hill. The van only had all seasons on it, and, as our speed slowly ground down to zero as the tires completely lost traction.

Then, our speed went into the negatives, as we began sliding backwards.

Jerrilyn hit the brakes, and the van came to a halt, perched precariously on the icy slope. She tried to move forward, but as soon as the tires moved, they lost traction and we began our descent again. She hit the brakes, and once again we found just enough purchase to come to a stop.

A third attempt, and this time, the van began to shimmy sideways as it slid backwards. “We’re going to be stuck here and no one will find us” lamented Jerrilyn.

“Yon need a run at it,” I said. So instead of trying to go forward, she shifted the van into reverse and we made our way down the hill.

She backed up a few hundred feet and stepped on the gas. We hit the hill at about 50 km/hr. Gravity began to work its ill deeds. 40 km. 30. Halfway up. 20 km/hr. 15.

There was too much hill and not enough speed, I though, but just as we were hitting the danger zone, the slope lessened, and we were able to power our way to the top.

We laughed about it afterwards, and still laugh about it to this day. I can’t say that I have any such stories about setting up a fake tree. While it is more convenient, it also holds far fewer memories than real trees.