The Christmas tree is uppermost in our minds this week. We select it, buy it, transport, mount, decorate and admire it. In three weeks we’ll recycle it and make our New Year’s resolutions. I think about Christmas trees all year long. I watch them grow, trim a skinny top off with my pocket knife occasionally; it’s a habit I started as a child before most readers were born! I sometimes go up close and breathe deeply to catch a whiff of cedar fragrance. I watch small ones and wonder if they’ll be ready for Christmas; they do grow rapidly. The birds and I watch for blue ball cedar; it was especially good this year, but the few below-freezing nights sent the birds to those special cedars to eat the blue balls.
Cedars grow rapidly. The scraggly ones seem to do quite well in our fence rows. Cedar posts were once valuable, but metal and plastic posts are more popular because they increase the value of the property. As I drive down our long driveway, I admire the beautiful green cedars in the growing season and wonder if they’ll turn brown before December. When I see hillsides covered with cedars, I hope there are little kids who will cut and sell the small trees as I did at about age 8.
A customer said to Dad, "Mr. Meyers, I wonder if your little girl would cut me a nice fresh Christmas tree? I’ll pay her a quarter for it, just like I’d pay Mr. Jackson at his grocery store. Dad said he reckoned I would. "How big?" he asked. "About up to here," she said with her hand at shoulder level. I was thrilled. And so was Mrs. Venable! Dad delivered it for me, and I soon had a call from the woman’s friends. Other milk customers saw the tree on the milk delivery truck and inquired. I was in business, on my own, and the next year I had the same customers and others. I had to cut trees at near dark, and Mom and I delivered some of them on Saturdays.
As my business grew, my need for money grew also. I took a classified ad in the Tribune. The price of a tree up to Mrs. Venable’s shoulder was then about a dollar; I opened an account in the Columbia Savings Bank with $30 and proudly carried a checkbook.
The first check I wrote was for a leather Spalding basketball for $5! Self-esteem was terrific, although I didn’t know what to call it. By July I had written a second $5 check - for a bright-red, all-wool bathing suit, as seen on the dust cover of my book, "Granny’s Notes: My First Eighty-Four Years."
I had customers we didn’t know. No one was at home when I delivered a certain tree, so I left it on the front porch with my name and address and called the buyer. "The check will be in the mail," the woman said, but it wasn’t. We went to the house, and the tree was still on the porch.
On the last Saturday before Christmas, Mom drove around and I delivered the last of the orders; then I knocked on that door one last time. No one responded. I picked up my tree and thought, "Dad can use it to stop a ditch."
I loaded it, and we drove away. To this day I claim that money can’t buy a better Christmas tree than a fragrant, native Boone County cedar.