The most joyous of yuletide chores took place many moons ago when my buddy Hog Ears and I would slip into the woods and cut our own Christmas tree.
Back then, Hog Ears and I were living the dream, sharing a backwoods bachelor cabin so far out in the boons that Santa had to put a brighter bulb in Rudolph’s nose to find us. We were on his good list, all right. Firewood was stacked on the front porch with care, to warm St. Nick’s cold derriere.
Our cabin was smack dab in the middle of a thousand-acre Ozarks paradise. A clear stream flowed through our front yard all year, just beyond the cabin’s front porch.
Our landlord lived in town, but rented the cabin to Hog Ears and me so we’d watch his cattle.
“You boys can hunt, fish in the creek, do whatever you want out there. Just keep the gate closed,” he’d say.
Rent was pretty steep when I lived in the cabin by myself. The tab was $50 a month, utilities paid. When I recruited Hog Ears to move in with me, that cut it to $25.
Such a cabin isn’t for everyone. The only heat was a fireplace in the living room and a wood stove by the bathroom. The kitchen was in between and was cold most of winter. We didn’t really need a refrigerator. It was 4 miles of rough gravel road from our cabin to the pavement. Our nearest neighbor lived a mile away.
The place was heaven on Earth to Hog Ears and me. Our landlord’s “do whatever you want” blessing included cutting our own Christmas tree.
About this time in December, we’d hop into Hog Ears’ 1970s model Chevy Suburban, way before Suburbans were cool. Off we’d go across the creek and down a lane into the woods. A red Homelite chain saw bounced around in the back seat on the drive to a cedar glade.
The clearing looked like a city Christmas tree lot. Cedar trees of all sizes grew in the glade. We could choose a Charlie Brown tree or one fit for the White House. We strolled around the glade, looking for something in between.
“This one looks about right,” Hog Ears said, tilting his head back and squinting to see the tree’s top. I yanked the saw’s starter cord, and the Homelite growled to life in a haze of blue smoke. A minute later, the tree was down and stuffed through the rear doors of the Suburban.
Back at the cabin, we made sure to drag our tree inside trunk first. That way no branches would break. Try as we might, the two of us weren’t strong enough to muscle the cedar into the living room. It was too big.
Hog Ears went to his Suburban and got a come-along. A few push-pulls of the handle winched the tree into the living room. When we stood it up, the top of our Christmas tree took a hard right and ran 3 feet along the ceiling. We set the trunk in a stand and secured the top to the ceiling with a nail. You don’t see trees like this in Southern Living.
Next, we got out our tackle boxes. We didn’t fish much in the winter, but those shiny lures made the best Christmas ornaments. Crank baits, jerk baits, spoons and top-water plugs all went on the branches.
A string or two of lights, and we had us a tree, all right. One we cut and decorated ourselves.
Now Hog Ears lives in Alaska with his wife and two lovely daughters. I haven’t moved too far from the cabin and that cedar glade where Christmas memories were made.
This is a revamp of a column that originally published in 2019.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.