Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Than One Way to Steal a Tree

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Than One Way to Steal a Tree

Article excerpt

SHORTLY before Christmas, this newspaper published some arboreal statistics. Of the 90 million households in the United States, a third of them buy real Christmas trees. A third use artificial trees, and a third do without any Christmas trees at all. Which shows you what statistics are worth.

What about the eight-thirds of householders who come into my wood lot every Yule and steal my trees until half my porcupines have to roost in snowbanks?

I'm referring to other days, before we sold the ancestral acres and became residual citizens with only a figurative fig tree and metaphorical maples.

I used to walk up through my woods with a paper bag for mushrooms about the time of the first frost, and use this excursion to pick out our family Tannenbaum, intending to return the first Sunday in Advent with my Swedish saw and a handsled. Not once did I ever harvest the intended tree; there would be only a stump and a purloiner's sled marks in the snow.

Understand, please, that a balsam fir tree in a Maine farmer's wood lot is not a matter of great price. The balsam fir is more like a weed, and the things will seed themselves in profusion so that a hundred will crowd themselves into failure for every one that flourishes.

The balsam fir makes fair fence posts, and lovely Christmas trees, and if allowed to mature can be put in a pulpwood pile. It is poor fuel, and is splintery if sawn for lumber. So there was never, really, any great monetary value involved in stealing Christmas trees.

When farmers began planting acreage to nursery seedlings and began harvesting for the city markets a difference prevailed. The State of Maine did, long ago, enact a law making it a felony to cut unbidden another's Yuletide assets, but the law made no great provision for catching the culprit in the act. Dust from a handsaw on a snowdrift is poor evidence.

So I never got too much worked up over losing a Christmas tree here and there. Then one year our lad went into the Christmas tree business on his own, and I saw otherwise. …

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