Each Christmas time in the United States a Christmas tree is selected from one of the nation’s national forests to be displayed on the White House lawn.
This year the Christmas tree was taken from Arizona — the first time this state has been chosen to make the donation. The tree was taken from the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, which is just over the Mogollon Rim at the northern boundary of the Tonto Forest, where I have been working on an archaeology survey project.
While riding to work yesterday morning the crew chief let us in on the happenings — obviously, nobody else on the crew massacres their free time watching the news. He told us that the tree (or rather, trees, as they cut out an entire lot of them to send to the capital) where coming from near the area where we were working.
I think: “What? Are they going to take some stub toed Pinyon Juniper and masquerade it to the president as a Christmas tree?”
The Tonto Forest of Arizona is just one tick up from the desert, and many of its trees cannot be called high and mighty. But then I thought of the mountain slopes and valleys covered with mature and sky high Ponderosa Pines on the way north of Strawberry on highway 87, and thought for a moment that the White House lawn may be in for a monster of a tree.
It is, in fact. The tree that will be on display on the lawn will be an 85 foot Blue Spruce taken from out of the White Mountains of the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.
On the ride back from work that day a flashing road construction sign was set up in Payson along route 87 which said:
“Capital Christmas tree October 10 4:30 – 5:30 Longhorn and 87″
Apparently, the tree would be on display for the townspeople to see before it shipped off out of Arizona for the White House.
“Who the hell would want to go and see a chopped down tree? Nobody ever looked at it when it was alive, now why would people want to see it now that its dead?” I spoke as we passed by the sign.
The next day I went to see the Christmas tree — chopped down, dead, and getting ready to be packed off to the nation’s capital. My usually cynical wife came with me.
I suppose I answered my own rhetorical question: my wife and I wanted to see the tree . . . along with the rest of Payson, Arizona.
Cop car lights flashed bright, roads were blockaded, traffic diverted. An entire town of people mobbed a tractor trailer and the long white bed that it pulled.
My wife looked for the tree. Where is it? It is in the truck. What truck. That big one. What one. That one right there with all of the people standing around it. Is it that small tree sitting next to the Santa Clause and the little kids? No, that is Santa Claus’ tree, the president’s tree is inside of that tractor trailer.
My wife was expecting that the tree would receive its sending off while standing tall and proud. Rather, it was already packed away inside of the truck that would transport it across the country.
The tree would only be on display in Payson for a single hour. There was only a small opening in the the trailer for people to peak in at it. People were peaking in droves.
“I did not know that there was this many people in Payson,” spoke my wife.
I did not know that there was this many people in Payson interested in peaking through a hole at a Blue Spruce cut from mountains that they live in.
We got in line to peak. Our turn came — we peaked (Petra peaked, too). For the brief extent of my much awaited peak, I observed the stump of the President of the USA’s Christmas tree.
It then became apparent that thousands of people waited in line to gaze for a brief moment upon a dead tree’s stump.
This was pretty cool. I have been around the world, but I cannot say that I ever saw something like this before.
We then walked away and the truck drove off to take the presidential Christmas tree to another location on its 28 stop tour of Arizona before dropping its load at the White House 10 days later.
I am pleased to be a part of a country whose people still get excited about looking at something that will wilt and die on the lawn of their nation’s capital. I am pleased to be a part of a country whose people still get up away from the TV, pack up their kids, and walk outside just to be a very minor part of a very minor historic event.
But did we all come to look at the tree because it would be placed on the President of the USA’s front lawn, or did we come to look at the tree because we knew that it would soon be on TV?
“Yup, we saw that stump.”
Either way, the bland taste of apathy has not yet doured the taste buds of the people of this country just yet — one thing that Americans tend not to be is ambivalent.
The cultural soup is still prepared thick in this country — or at least it is in Payson, Arizona.
White House Christmas Tree
White House Christmas Tree 2009
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