December 11, 2007 in City

Christmas is in the trimmings, the trappings

Doug Clark The Spokesman-Review

On Sunday my lovely wife, Sherry, and I set off on our annual insane trek to find the perfect stick of dead foliage to display in our living room.

These quests are usually an ordeal punctuated by disappointment.

But not this year. This year will be known as the Clarks’ Miracle of the Tree Lot.

But I’ll get to that later. Some history is in order.

See, last year we located our perfect Christmas tree after a typical angst-filled search.

It was a beatific balsam with a Santa-sized price tag. I’m embarrassed to say I coughed up something like 160 bucks for it.

Christmas can turn you into a holly jolly fathead.

But it was totally worth it. That is, until we actually put the up the tree. We then discovered to our bah-humbug horror that the thing was drier than an AA convention.

This Presto Yule Log must have been harvested back in July.

By the Big Day our ornaments were hooked to a crispy 8-foot tinder cone.

The Clarks were one spark away from a 911 call.

We dragged the tree out of the house Dec. 26. It laid a carpet of brittle needles all the way to the curb.

But that was nothing compared to the year we foolishly decided to embrace the “early bird scores the tree” theory. We drove to a tree farm in October and spent an entire afternoon scouting out a Christmas tree for the ages. And finally, there it was: a uniform masterpiece of perfection.

We signed our numbered yellow ticket and then affixed it to a limb much the way toe-tags are tied to corpses at the morgue.

Then December came. Filled with excitement, we drove back to the site and …

Found a stump where our prized tree once stood.

Some fir-rustling fiend filched it.

Oh, Tannen-bummer!

I know what you’re thinking. And sure, I’ve thought about going the artificial tree route.

But there’s a part of me that just can’t do it. Buying the real deal fills me with that joyful Christmastime spirit of being able to symbolically thumb my nose at all the tree huggers.

So on Sunday we drove to a Spokane Valley lot called The Christmas Tree Guy at the corner of Appleway and Vista.

Why? Because Sherry picked up a card at a sandwich shop and figured I’d like the name.

My woman knows me.

We had barely begun our search when I heard a customer mumble to his lady:

“The uglier the tree, the prettier you can make it.”

What words of wisdom. Think about it. Does it really matter what the Clark trees look like?

Once we plaster on the lights and I hang up all my treasured Elvis ornaments, why, any tree in the world will become a twinkling tower of joy.

Besides, having an ugly Christmas tree is like having an ugly baby.

Nobody’s gonna tell you.

And so Sherry and I did something we have never done.

We bought the first tree we looked at.

Bada-boom! Eight minutes and we were outta there.

This is not to suggest that the tree we purchased is in any way ugly. As it so happened, the first one we considered is amazing: nine feet of bushy splendor.

Smells fresh, too.

(After last year that was a must.)

Pike Brant – aka The Christmas Tree Guy – says his trees come out of Montana. Many of them are wild-grown, too.

Brant, 36, says his average customer spends about 20 minutes looking for a tree. We were pretty quick but not the quickest he’d ever seen. Once when it was pouring rain, some tree hunters didn’t even bother getting out of their cars. Just pulled up to the lot, rolled down the windows and pointed at what they wanted, adds Brant.

That is fast.

Yep. We did it. And I’d feel really great about our new tree-selecting attitude if it weren’t for this one thing.

Later that day we drove by a tree lot at Lincoln Heights. And I heard Sherry exclaim as we rode past the site:

“Hey, I think I just saw one I like better.”

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