By Author Nan McKenzie, November 10, 2017
My dad, Ed McKenzie, was forever looking for a way to make money; it was always in short supply in our house.
He began to cut Christmas trees, beginning in early November, and my sisters and I would often go with him to help. He would walk through the trees with an axe in hand, and with just a few blows, (sometimes only one) would cut down those he thought were the right ones. We would come behind and pile the trees up, spearing our hands down through the biggest limbs at the end, then hauling six or eight or more at a time down a hill, or up a heavy rise, taking them to the big truck.
One time, my sister Sue started screaming and running, slapping at her shirt and pants. A hornets’ nest had been jostled loose by all the action around it, and they were letting Sue know how unhappy they were about it. She was stung several times, the hornets working their way into her clothes and hair. Dad picked her up and ran to the truck, taking her coat and pants off on the way, hornets following the two of them. He was able to get most of the little stinkers off her, but our day was done—she had to go to the doctor’s office in Whitefish, about thirty miles away. Sue cried all the way there, never able to stand pain of any sort.
When we had enough to fill the back of the truck, Dad would climb in, and we girls would toss the trees to him. He’d try to separate them to save time when we got to the tree yard.
We had a tree yard at our house, and after several days of cutting and hauling, the yard would begin to fill up. He’d reload the trees on the truck, counting twos, fours, and so forth, meaning the length in feet of the tree, up to eights and tens. They’d be taken to tree lots in town for sale, or hauled somewhere exotic, like Arizona or Texas, places where there were no Christmas trees to be had. He’d either rent a lot at the edge of a town or sell them right out of the truck, making enough money to buy gas and food for the trip home.
I loved being in the woods with Dad, feeling the snow falling on my back, the stretch of muscles, marveling at how strong he was. The smell of the trees would almost explode on us when we walked into our warm house, and we could smell them for days afterwards.
Sometimes, he’d let me burrow into the trees and ride in the back on the way home, so cold that I thought my life was over, but relishing the sense of accomplishment, knowing I could help my dad in a significant way.
For years, I became antsy in early November, thinking it was time to cut trees, but Dad was gone by then, snuffed out in a car accident in 1964. I still miss the beautiful trees, scuffling through the leaves in the woods, pussyfooting over the tamarack needles.
Happy Holidays from the author of the Big Foot Series