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Inspirational Reads

I Wish You a Shady Christmas

December 8, 2009

So...let me preface all of this by pointing out that North Carolina is a giant pine forest. You can't toss a whizz outside without hitting a pine tree. Believe me. I know. That being said, the Christmas tree industry booms every year around this time. And by boom, I really mean "these fucking vultures charge $75 to $90 for a fucking seven-foot tall stick that's going to die and whither in three weeks." I hope your kids are enjoying the small fortune I've handed over to you, Mr. Purveyor of Christmas trees, because my kids will wonder why we're enjoying a steaming cup of Ramen and Tootsie Rolls for Christmas dinner.

You can imagine, then, my joy when, as we are hustling down the road this past weekend and I see a roadside "stand" of trees with a crudely painted sign that read "X-Mas Trees $35 - 45". And when I say "crudely painted," I mean every bit of it's implications. We're talking an unevenly cut wooden plank with blue spray paint done in free-hand.

Nothing to worry about here, right?

Last night, I loaded the family into the car with visions of $45 Christmas trees dancing in my head. Away we went, tearing open the window, throwing up the sash! The stars were beating down on us like snow on the breast of...a sexy...redhead...hmmm...the simile seems to be breaking down here.

Let's try this anew.

Into merry olde Durham towne we went, got our money from ye olde ATMe, and headed toward the site where the roadside "stand" was, poorly-lettered sign and all. Christmas music tickled our senses as we jingled down the road, my daughter reading a story about warrior cats fighting each other for territory, my son telling us about the awesome destructive power of tornadoes. If this doesn't scream holiday cheer, I defy you to find something that does.

We come upon the...Christmas tree lot...and I pull into the parking lot onto a dead-end street. A handful of worklights dangled from a crudely-erected frame of 2x4s hammered together and hastily spray painted with red and green paint. Three dozen trees leaned against this poorly constructed...rack...for lack of a better term. All of them already tied. They came in six foot and seven foot trees. Not a one of them is available to actually look at.

Three men huddle around one of the work lights. One of them, a younger man wearing a Florida A&M pullover, approaches me as my children and I vault over the drainage ditch running alongside the dead-end road on which I've parked. My wife huddles in the car, the doors locked, the engine running.

I love you, too, honey. Remember me fondly when I'm gone.

Deciding to cut right to the chase, I begin with the bargaining. Much like Ralphie's old man, I fancy myself to be shrewd as an Arab trader.

"I'll take that tree right over there," I said, nodding at it with my head. The young man hustles over to the tree. He pulls it from the stack of trees leaning against the 2x4 lean-to. I look it over. I'm pretty sure there's a bird's nest in it, still. Oh, hooray! Our tree comes pre-decorated this year! Do I have to pay extra for the lice? Finding this prospect just too much, I decide to look over another tree, fingering the branches somewhat, hoping that no dead animals were locked within the interwoven boughs of the tree I considered.

"Hmmm..." I said, a mockery of shrewdness, "I'm not sure I like the top on that one." It looked a bit like the letter Y. "What about this one?"

"It's a good tree, see?" He throws the other tree aside like a discarded toy. "Not too old, not too dry."

"Any squirrels in it?" I ask.

"Pardon?" said the man, still holding my tree.

"I'll take it," I said, hoping to not anger him and his companions. Oh sure, the numbers were even, but I was fairly certain that my daughter would fold quickly in a fight and the five-year-old might hold his own for a bit, but it would eventually end up in me being overwhelmingly beaten down, most likely in a bloody pulp.

"Would you like me to cut it?" the guy asked. I asked him to, and then to lop off a few of the lower branches. With that all done, we load the tree into the back of my car. I hand over $60 for my $45 tree.

This is where things began to become suspicious.

Well, even more suspicious.

There's no register. There's no cash box. There's only the wallet of the third, silent partner, who gives me my cocaine-encrusted change. With no receipt. Yep, nothing shady or untoward here. Hastily, I shake their hands, wish them a Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. And then I ran for my car.

I then get into the car and drive away from the scene of the crime crudely constructed Christmas tree stand.

We continue on in relative silence for a little bit. My daughter is again reading about cats killing one another, my son is proclaiming his love for our tree. Finally, my wife, a touch timidly, offers up:

"So...where do you think they got that tree?"

Without hesitation, I respond:

"I'm pretty sure we just bought a stolen tree."

At this point, we both start giggling. Because that's the kind of people we are. We buy illegally-obtained Christmas trees, and then we laugh about it. And then we take our cocaine-encrusted change and rub it all over our bodies, chanting "We saved $40 on a Christmas tree". It's unsightly, I know, but that's just how we roll.

We get home, and the tree, fortunately, has no bird's nests nor chipmunks hidden within. Unfortunately, the kindling tree is bone dry, so, after mounting it on our contraband tree stand, I water it. I pour four cups of water into the dish, and as I'm preparing another four cups of water, I'm pretty sure it drank three cups, gave a visual shudder of relief, and heaved a mighty sigh.

So, my tree is now standing in the living room, a trail of needles fallen from where I mounted it on the tree stand. I can only imagine that, tomorrow morning, as I'm enjoying the view of it's steadfast branches, somewhere, someone is coming out to get his morning paper. He's balding, he's wearing boxer shorts and a plaid bathrobe, loosely tied in the front, slippers on his feet. He looks out into his front yard, and all of his beautiful Douglas firs that he planted several years ago when he bought the house have been sawed off at the base. He starts cursing and raving, his mouth foams a little bit. The top of his bald pate grows ruby red with his indignation. And then he slams into the house, kicks the cat, and curses at his wife.

Yep. Nothing says "the holidays" quite like a stolen tree.


Cowguy said...

Your tree is HAWT.

(Please notice I used the much more hip spelling of "hot".)

I've never owned a stolen Christmas tree, but I bought a stolen coon hound once. Can I be in your club?

mo.stoneskin said...

I feel it is my duty to report you to the public body that deals with stolen Christmas trees, squirrels and bird nests.

Before I make the complaint I was wondering if you could double check - are there definitely no squirrels in the tree?

Call Me Cate said...

The idea of a stolen Christmas tree had never occurred to me. People do that? Think of it this way - maybe the original owner of said tree really hated it. Maybe their wife was allergic and they had been meaning to have the tree removed from their yard but they lacked proper tools or ability or cash to pay for the removal. You have all provided them with a service.

Scope said...

If it's live and it comes "pre-lit"? Probably stolen.

Yours was most likely "illegally obtained" from a national forest.

So, you will not be kissing under the "Misdemeanour Toe" but instead you're the "Felonious Navi-Dad!"

erin said...


We have a fake tree that my mom picked up at a pool city after christmas sale for $2.

It's not very...real looking. But it doesn't cost shit.

Moooooog35 said...

Nothing says 'Merry Christmas' like being an accessory to a felony.

Pfangirl said...

Dude, you get totally shafted with the price of your Christmas trees. We complain when we pay $30 here, with the result being most South Africans ignore real fir trees and just haul out the same plastic thing every year.

But speaking of Christmas trees, we're getting ours this coming Sunday from the same garden centre we always go to.

Adam L. said...

You see, this is why we bought a fake tree from Walgreens 4 years ago. It's an advantage of not having children.

Del-V said...

You will be vacuuming up pine needles from your bone-dry tree until late spring. Merry Christmas!

Elliott said...

That's wrong. SO wrong. Paying $90 for a tree in the state where MY trees come from in FL is akin to me going back to WI and paying $12 for a gallon of milk. You done right.

A cow-orker of yore lived amongst the Kettle Morraine State Forest, and every December they'd have assholes out cutting the top seven feet from the 30-foot pines.

Del-V said...

You will be vacuuming up pine needles from your bone-dry tree until late spring. Merry Christmas!

Ed Adams said...

The tree price have realy gone up this year.

Still, it sounds like you guys had fun.

Chemgeek said...

I killed my own for $29.

Travis said...

You were in the promised land.


The home of the best basketball team on the face of this earth.

You're a lucky bastard, stolen tree and all.

carissajaded said...

LOL!!! I wouldn't feel too bad about it... I'm pretty sure all the trees we had growing up were ones that my dad "purchased" from a special lot that was only opened after dark, and that he would "pay them later." At least until he eventually planted one of those trees in a pot and continued to use that same tree, pot and all for about 7 years in a row. It was a ugly tree, but at least we didn't have to steal anymore! Now a days, we just have a cactus...

Nej said...

It's a contraband Christmas at the mjenks house. Sweet!

Joshua said...

I paid $26.47 for a Fraser Fir at Pike Nursery. Score! Cheapest I've ever paid.


Nikki said...

Well if you saved $40, I don't quite see the problem. Next year, cut out the middle man and steal one yourself for free! You should really be teaching your kids these things...

Jimmy Bastard said...

The last line was pure poetry, and for that you have me tipping my hat in respect.

Heather said...

What makes you think your daughter would fold, the fact that her mother locked herself in the car!! ROTFLMAO!!

I bought my tree 10yrs ago for $10.
I'm sure somebody came out of the truck stop from supper and half his load is missing!

Frank said...

That reminds me of another scene in "A Christmas Story."

"I think we just bought a stolen tree..."

"Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuudge..."

words...words...words... said...

Maybe they just hate extraneous overhead.

I say if you can get one for less than $70, go for it.

Wonderful said...

haha that totally sounds like something my dad would do.