“These guys were dead on arrival!”

Similar to a Boy Scout Christmas tree lot I worked at in 1964.

I’ve never written a Christmas story. It’s not that I don’t have good memories of events leading up to Jesus’ birthday. No siree! I have so many recollections that it’s hard to pick just one.

I was blessed to share Christmas with a loving dad, mom, and brother. Not everyone is that fortunate. There are dozens of unique events I recall from celebrating Christmas with my family in a puny trailer home. I’ll leave those for another day. For now, I’ll opt for this short one:


The year was 1964. My family lived in Lubbock, Texas where I was a ten-year-old fledgling Boy Scout. Our troop had an annual Christmas tree sale, with scouts expected to man the fort for two weeks. When I say fort, I mean a small camping trailer on a dirt lot. Trees came in on a flatbed truck and were offloaded by hand. I still recall the strong smell of spruce and sap. The sticky goo wouldn’t wash off my hands and clothes without using ample amounts of Pinesol. That cleaning agent had its own pungent aroma.

My shift consisted of the last two days of the sale. By then, all of the good trees were long gone. We had perhaps ten specimens left and they were quite homely. The prices were marked down accordingly. Surprisingly, folks still came by to save a buck. My scoutmaster showed me a clever trick to help get rid of the last sickly few.

“These guys were dead on arrival.”, he mentioned, while shaking his head in tearless sympathy. “Let’s pretty them up!”

I don’t remember the scoutmaster’s name, but he carried in his car trunk, a drill, small hand saw, and some clear glue. It was much too cold outside to perform surgery, so we hauled ailing trees inside the trailer where a propane heater was going. A folding table served as our operating platform.

The fellow showed me how to drill holes in trees that were missing limbs, cut good limbs from a donor tree, dab glue on a branch end, and then twist it in place. Dr. Frankenstein couldn’t have done better. Once the task was complete, that tree went back outside and another took its place. After finishing up, my mentor replied,

“They’re now on life support!”

We sold almost all of them, with no buyers noticing the surgery. When it came time to close shop around noon on December 24th, there were three trees left. Those were the donors minus numerous branches. They were good for burning and nothing else. I never forgot my scoutmaster’s tree-trick. Several years later it came in handy.

My family had a gangly looking artificial tree with several places on it void of limbs. Somehow, my son and I were able to scrounge up a spare. I believe it was an old one that mom had but can’t be sure. Holes were drilled in the trunk of the good one, with limbs from the donor tree removed and inserted into them. It was a flashback to 1964. That artificial tree lasted us for at least sixteen Christmases.

I still recall three things learned in the Boy Scouts, with Christmas-tree-restoration being the most useful next to tying square and granny knots.

Christmas tree hearse

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

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