“We need to have a Christmas Tree Expotition. Can we go to Showvakers so the kids can see the petting zoo?” Hilary was calling Bucky to organize getting the Christmas trees for 2006. Of course he remembered Showvacker’s Quality Evergreens; the Burning Man Krewe had been there gathering left over trees, and that’s where Mark bought brush trees for wreath making. The Edgetts had been there to get trees one or two years, too, a long time ago. Bucky agreed Showvackers would be fine.
They have good trees, and they’re close, too. I’ll call Brother Pete and see if that’s OK by him.”
“OK, good,” said Hilary. “We can go to an early dinner after we get our trees. How about the Full Moon?”
Brother Pete agreed to go to Showvackers, with the provision they go early enough that if a suitable tree wasn’t found, there would be time to pop over to Sewell’s. That confounded dinner plans a bit, but Hilary got everyone reorganized, and the expotition was set.
The day was unseasonably warm, in no way Currier and Ives Christmasy. Terrie and Alyssa both came with Pete to begin the Expotition at Loie and Bucky’s house. Terrie drove the Big Red Jeep, and Pete came in his pickup truck.
“All right,” said Pete, as the Edgett crew got itself organized. “Now there won’t be any worries about the tree being right.” Terrie and Pete are very particular about their Christmas trees, and Pete is always worried he won’t get the perfect tree.
“OK, good,” said Bucky. “You know I don’t care what tree we get so long as it’s alive and doesn’t cost too much.” Loie just shook her head. Little did she know what Bucky’s words might foretell.
Pete and Bucky saluted as they drove past the Mason-Dixon marker in its iron protection cage.
“Hah,” said Bucky. “The shortest trip to Pennsylvania anyone ever took.” Pete laughed.
“Did we drive twice as far as we’ve come?”
“By the time we finally get there and park, at least,” said Bucky.
Showvacker’s was doing a booming business. Hundreds of cars were parked in the field, and two helpers were waving traffic to the next parking spaces. As Pete drove his pickup truck to the end of the parking line, the helper waved him to a stop.
“You can drive around the tree,” the helper said, motioning to a small sapling standing close to the next parking space. “In case it might scratch your truck.”
“That’s the least of my worries,” laughed Pete as he maneuvered his somewhat battered but ever faithful pickup next to the little tree. He and Bucky headed up to the refreshment stands, petting zoo and milling crowds, looking for the Expotition. It took what seemed a long time for all the Expotition members to gather and get organized. Some members needed to get refreshments, others to look into the gift shops. Bucky had time to look over the balled and bagged live trees. He was a bit dismayed at the prices, which seemed to him very high.
“We can get a tree later, if we need to,” said Loie. “I saw some very nice ones for half this price at Kenny’s grocery in Littlestown.”
“Well, said Bucky, “there’s one that’s much less than all the others. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s not as full.” Bucky had found one tree among all the others, with grass shoots and small weeds growing out through its burlap. He wondered if it had been dug earlier than the others, all of which had clean root balls. By then, it was time for the Expotition to set off into the fields: everyone had a tree hauling cart; Pete had learned where they would find the Concolor Fir he and Terrie wanted. Bucky was wearing his Santa’s Helper hat, so he was easy to see. Now it was time to unleash the energy of Aja, Jude and Nathan, who bounded through the rows of trees. Cries of “This one,” and “No, this one,” began to drift back to the adults. Terrie and Alyssa soon outdistanced the slowly dispersing Expotition crowd.
Everyone laughed, and Hilary demanded Bucky repeat his imitation of an oddly formed tree so that she could photograph it. The Expotition seemed to be finding trees very quickly. Hilary got pictures as fast as she could, but had a time keeping up with the choosing and cutting action. Bucky helped both Alyssa and Nathan help their fathers, by pulling the perfect trees over, away from the sawing action. In an amazingly short time, every family had found and cut their trees, and the Christmas Tree Expotition of 2006 was headed back to the shaking and bailing station.
And now, while the rest of the Expotition waited for their trees to be wound with string, and to get their price tickets, it was time for Loie and Bucky to make a decision. They walked through the area of live trees, and yes, it was true that all the other trees were two or even three times the price of the one single tree. Loie shook her head.
“I don’t know, Bucky,” she said. “This one has a really big root ball. It’s going to be a job getting it in and out of the house.”
“Oh, we’ll manage,” said Bucky. “And we’re here, the price is fine, we won’t have to go anywhere else. We’ll figure something out.” Loie agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to Bucky’s enthusiasm of the moment. And as it turned, out new tradition was being born.
Now Pete and Bucky had to go get the pickup truck. Helpers were called in to get the tree out of its hole and into the truck. Bucky stood by while Dave Showvacker and a few of his workers dug out the tree. Bucky’s suspicions were confirmed, and more. The chosen tree had roots growing out into the ground!
“Oh, yep,” said Dave Showvacker, overseeing the excavation of Bucky’s tree. “We dug this one last year. It’s vigorous, huh?” The helpers were using their shovels and mattocks to chop roots as thick as Bucky’s thumbs! The root ball was immense, not only wide, but deep. Bucky assumed the size of the ball was what had kept it from being sold last year. It would indeed be a chore to move this little tree and its gigantic root ball into and out of the house. What had he done?
The helpers had finally managed to prise the root ball out of its hole, and while they were wrestling a new, clean burlap around it, Bucky walked across the drive to where Loie, Terrie and Alyssa were waiting in the Big Red Jeep, next to the pickup truck.