The day after Thanksgiving, being the family that celebrates Christmas that we are, all loaded into the family truckster and headed for the hills, the Appalachian Mountains that is. Nestled between Boone and Deep Gap, N.C. perches a covey of Fraser Fir Christmas tree farms which dot the barren, winter landscape. After doing a little research I learned that North Carolina grows over 19% of real trees harvested in the U.S. on 25,000 acres of land by 1,600 farmers, roughly 400 of which are Choose and Cut Farms.
The day we sought out our own tree to cut, we crossed a little one-lane bridge in the heart of Deep Gap. Following a narrow winding road, I came upon a sign and thought, “Yep, that’s the place”. Mr. Stanley Carroll and his Jack Russell terrier climbed out of their old Dodge truck to greet us. I asked for prices, “$8.00 per foot”, he replied. While we exchanged particulars, my kids commenced to playing hide-n-seek in the maze of trees, running from here and there, exclaiming “No, THIS is the best one!” Sensing the need for mediation, I stepped in to expedite the decision making process. We finally settled on a lovely 6 footer that I knew would fit in our stand and most importantly, would not be too tall in our living room.
Mr. Carroll kindly got out his chainsaw and hacked the tree down for us. After bailing the tree, he tied it to the roof of my car while showing my kids his dog’s one and only trick: Dead Dog. “T, dead dog. Dead dog, T.” And the Jack Russell would roll over on his back and stick his tongue out of the corner of his mouth. We were all very impressed by this trick. When we opened the car door, T, the dog, jumped in and wanted to go for a ride with us. This brought loads of laughter from my kids, but finally, the dog was cajoled out of the car and back into the arms of his master.
As I offered Mr. Carroll my money, I looked into his face. The creases of his skin on his cheeks and forehead nestled his soft, warm blue eyes that revealed the timbre of his heart. I imagine he looked at my naked left hand and the presence of my four children and the absence of a father and took all that to mean I needed his help. He was right, I did. It was a simple exchange, really; but, an unspoken understanding filled the air with compassion without judgement for this season in our lives. As we pulled out of his gravel drive, the kids turned to look at the man and dog, who was now circling the feet of his master. Laughing, my son announced “I think this is best tree we’ve ever had!” He was right. It is.