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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: I’m branching out with a stabby Christmas tree

I admit to feeling a stab of trepidation when my lake neighbor, Jason Galbraith, told me about his Colorado spruce Christmas trees.

He’s selling the trees to the public on a 6-acre site at 13717 E. Sanson Ave. in Spokane Valley.

“You should come out and get one,” he said.

Welllll …

The last time I traveled down the ol’ “pick the tree/cut the tree” road left me with even deeper psychological scarring than usual.

The “Oh, Tannen Bummer Incident,” it is known in Clark family lore.

It happened some years back when I came up with this brilliant scheme to prepick our annual Yule Totem from an area Christmas tree farm – in October.

“You know,” I told my lovely wife, Sherry, “this way we can avoid all that indecisive hemming and hawing we always go through in the cold with the other last-minute holiday fools.”

And just like I predicted, it worked. We drove to the tree farm where after a sunny afternoon traipse, we found a “uniform master of perfection.”

We toe-tagged the sucker with a signed and numbered declaration of ownership, securing the yellow document with wire around a sturdy limb.


At least it was until we returned to the spot two months later to find a raw stump where our prize once towered.

Some tree pirate filched our fir.

If that doesn’t make you want to drop-kick an elf, nothing will.

But time heals the wounded, as they say.

Plus Galbraith assured me this was a no muss, no fuss proposition. “I have saw. Bring pickup tie-downs,” he wrote to me in a text.

So on Saturday, the Clark tribe drove over the freeway and through Millwood to the grove off Evergreen Road. (The site is only open next Friday through Sunday.)

Why not make it a party?

Daughter Emily, son-in-law Shane, and baby Ronan followed us in their own car.

Galbraith, 45, is not your usual Christmas tree merchant.

He runs Creative Edge, a landscaping and concrete contracting company.

Galbraith said he planted his spruce orchard back in 2002 with the intent to dig up and sell the trees live as part of his landscaping firm.

The economy, however, was a whole lot different 13 years ago. In today’s post-recession climate, he said, the original plan just isn’t cost-effective.

And so last Christmas season, Galbraith began offering his trees at about 50 bucks for an average-size spruce. He said he also sells trees at a steep discount to several school sports and music programs.

Last year, for example, wrestlers from Rathdrum’s Lakeland High School, Galbraith’s alma mater, came out to harvest trees for their own fundraiser.

A spruce Christmas tree is a first for the Clarks. I like the wide-spaced branches and asymmetrical look as well as the bluish color.

These trees also have attitude. As in sharp needles that make gloves a must.

The aforementioned wrestlers found this out the hard way, Galbraith recalled with a chuckle. Being tough and macho, he said, the kids wouldn’t stoop to something so sissy as glove wearing.

After grappling with the trees, however, many of the young barehanded athletes looked like they’d been in a cage match with a pack of porcupines.

On Saturday, Shane and Emily wandered the rows trying to locate that “right” tree to erect in their living room.

Sherry and I did some looking, too, although we spent more time marveling at baby Ronan’s cuteness.

First-time grandparents. Go figure.

In the end, we made our selections and somehow got both trees into the back of my truck. I paid Galbraith and we drove back to reality.

Sherry and I put tree in stand Sunday night and got it as level as possible.

Then we performed a ritual that always begins the same way.

Once the lights are strung, the first ornaments to go on the tree are two fabric figures that Sherry made for our first Christmas together in 1973.

I put on Hansel. Sherry places Gretel, and …

“Ow,” she said. “These trees are prickly.”

“Gloves,” I told her, laughing. “Gotta wear gloves.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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