Thursday, December 24, 2009
Gruesome Christmas tree chopping stories
Like many college English majors, I have an unpublished novel on my hard drive. Here, we visit Colorado of the eighties and attempt to chop down a Christmas tree:
One of the great pleasures of life is having breakfast in an all night diner at four o'clock in the morning with good friends. The night changes to day. You get to watch truckers and delivery men come in with full loads and empty stomachs. The harsh cold fluorescent light of reality finishes off an evening of rock music, drugs, skinny dipping and unrequited love. It's four a.m. and you're ordering eggs with friends. Waylon Jennings is on the jukebox. The sun will be out soon and with it all of the expectations of the evening. You're drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and being your old grouchy selves.
So it came to pass that I was eating breakfast with Nancy and Gail at Mary and Lou's Cafe. Nancy invited me out to Jamestown to help chop down Christmas trees with them and the youngin's. I said I'd go.
There was some federal land by the old abandoned tungsten mine in Jamestown. Technically it was off limits to all poachers, but the locals treated it as their own private tree farm, and during December, were known to discretely cart off an evergreen or two in the spirit of the season.
Me, Nancy, Gail, and the two kids drove from Denver one cold morning in Gail's truck to carry off Christmas plunder from Jamestown. When we got to Jamestown, we stopped at Nancy's father's house and he gave us some cutting instructions. We were told, for one thing, that if anybody asked us where we came by our trees, we were to say that they came from the old Hill place, and that Daddy had been carting off trees with permission from the Hill family for thirty years. We carried axes instead of the usual power saws, because Nancy said it would be more authentic and we'd keep the noise down.
There we were with axes on a hill full of evergreens. It was the two women, me and Nathaniel. The consensus was that Gabriel was to be left with Grandpa. I chopped down the first tree. Boy, it was a lot of work. I must have hit that damn tree with that dull ax twenty times before it came down. Then Gail and Nancy chopped down their trees. Male chauvinist as I am, I have to admit that they disposed of their tree more swiftly than I did with mine. And theirs was bigger.
Within half an hour of chopping and stumbling over the icy meadow, the tree cutting duty was finished, and we got to the fun part of dragging the two trees down the hill and tying them onto the roof of the truck. This was actually more work than the cutting down of the evergreens had been. Fortunately, Nancy had brought a bottle for walking and so we were all in fine spirits by the time we got back to Dan Woodson's abode.
He was baby-sitting his grandson, and he let us in. We listened to old Jamestown Christmas tree cutting stories and drank beer. I almost cried when he told us about how old Uncle Jake lost his thumb one year cutting down balsam pines. But then he was a professional poacher so he probably deserved what happened.
Nan-u had one more house she wanted to visit. It was getting dark as we drove past Tim Hardin's old house and got to the cabin of Nancy's old school chum. Deloris was living with her affable but perennially out of work husband Fred. They greeted us with beer, tequila, sandwiches, and their two year old nymphomaniac daughter Tiger. While the adults were recanting gruesome Christmas tree chopping stories, Gabriel and Tiger retired to the bedroom to play doctor. A few bhongs into the evening the two youngsters flamboyantly entered the living room in their birthday suits.
The two moms started yelling, "Put your clothes on right now before we whip your butts!" They made so much noise they almost woke up Nathaniel. It was great to watch a recreation of the Genesis scene. It really got me into the spirit of the season.
Soon, it was time to leave, that is if anyone had expectations of getting to work or school or day care on time the next day. So we departed the cold, wintry, mountain town of Jamestown. With the trees precariously tied to the roof of Gail's truck we all headed back to Denver, our jobs, and our urban lives. When we got to town, first we hoisted Nancy and Gail's tree up the stairs of their place and then we hoist my tree DOWN the stairs of my basement condo.
Wow! I had a Christmas tree! Now all I needed was decorations. Then I found the box with the old family stuff that my parents had given me. This, I knew, was the stuff that neither my parents nor my older brother wanted. Then there was the entourage of decorations I had bought at flea markets in Denver the past three years. The tree, needless to say, was premium grade, and genuine.