The Last Windrow: Still looking for that perfect Christmas tree

Columnist is confident he'll find it this week.

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

I'm in search of the perfect Christmas tree this year.

After the turmoil that was 2020, I need a holiday "thing" to end the season on a positive note, even though the Christmas story is always a positive ending to the year.

In my mind, this year's tree will feature perfect branches, a pyramid silhouette from bottom to top. Limbs will be perfectly situated to display our wide assortment of lights, including those old style bubble lights that have come back into vogue lately.

In other words, I won't be easily satisfied.

I start out with that attitude every year. Somehow as the search progresses I get less picky.


I remember my dad picking out our farmhouse Christmas tree many years ago. While my mother was grocery shopping in the Council Oak grocery store, Dad and I ambled over to the vacant car lot on the corner to pick out a tree. It's no news that by the time a Christmas tree is trucked from the north country to Iowa, it loses something in transition. The dark green has by then left the needles and the tree just looks like it needs a big drink.

If one of those Iowa firs didn't shed too badly when tapped on the parking lot blacktop, home it went in the trunk of that 1950 Chevy. I'm sure my parents prayed that there would be a needle left dangling from a branch by Christmas Eve.

Usually my mother threw enough tinsel and garland on the tree to hide any of its defects. My brothers and sisters and I were not allowed to place tinsel on the tree. Our efforts usually ended up with globs of tinsel un-artfully dangling from one branch around the base of the tree.

Those thoughts went through my head this year as I headed out on the annual search for our perfect tree. I had hip surgery six years ago and I was unable to cross the swamp to the tree stand near our house over those years in between. In my head, I remembered a number of balsam trees I had spied standing there that with a couple of more years of growth would turn out to be great trees.

I had that in mind as my daughter and I skidded our way across the just frozen swamp's ice with me only breaking through a couple of times. Thankfully the cold water never reached the top of my boots.

I thought the landscape looked a little different than what I remembered from several years back. Something just didn't seem to be in place on the skyline. As we approached the spot where I knew we would find our perfect tree, we came upon 40 acres that had recently been totally logged off. Clearcut to the bone. The only trees to be seen were young aspens with nary a pine tree in sight.

I ambled on over to where my perfect tree used to be only to find the whole lot pushed into a slash pile. I think I spied my tree in among the tangle. My and my daughter's spirit dropped. We trucked back home across the swamp empty handed.

My brother-in-law came to my rescue this week. He recently purchased a chunk of land where balsam trees grow. He's already procured his living room tree and he has invited me and my daughter to plod through his woods to find our very own perfect tree.


I intend to do my search soon. I'm hoping there will be a tree somewhere out there with perfect branches, a pyramid silhouette from bottom to top, limbs perfectly formed to hold our assortment of lights and providing a fresh balsam scent to our home.

In any event, it has to be better than that tree my dad purchased from the guy in the car lot so many years ago. I don't remember that tree even smelling like a Christmas tree. And I'm sure the tree we adorn our home with this year will have most of its needles still attached when New Year's Day rolls around.

If it does that, it will be perfect.

In my upcoming column I will be repeating my annual "The Ugliest Little Christmas Tree" poem as a Christmas card to my readers and others. The little poem proves that ugly can be beautiful both in trees and humans. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

See you next time. Okay? Stay safe!

John Wetrosky - Last Windrow.jpg

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