Dad chose the right saw for me and showed me how to cut straight across the tree stem, and I headed to the woods. I knew that woods well, and one hill was covered with nicely shaped cedar trees of all sizes. I was soon selling Boone Countyís fresh, bright green, sweet-smelling trees to several of the dairy customers. I could manage to carry the saw and two trees "as tall as Mrs. Venableís shoulder," not counting the length of the stem.
When it snowed, I loaded my sled and tied on more trees. The next year I raised the price of trees and placed a classified ad in the newspaper; many people wanted taller trees, and Mom offered me free delivery in and on her Model T touring car. On weekends I made extra trips to the woods. For several years this was a self-propelling business; I didnít need to advertise.
The year that it sleeted, I had to leave one 6-foot tree halfway along the path. The next morning it weighed a ton! Dad brought it in with the team and wagon and put it near the floor drain in the warm milk house overnight. It was fine by the time he went to deliver milk to his customersí homes around town. Many were the families of university teachers; some of their children were my friends at the university elementary school.
I learned a lot from those customers: A large tree takes up too much space in the middle of the average living room. A tree with a naturally thin or flat side will save precious space in a room that will be crowded with people and packages. The tree might well have a flat or thin side, so it would look better flat against the wall to save space. An antique pottery jar made a good mounting, with rocks packed around the tree stem. The pottery jar held lots of water, and some of us like to have the tree around several days before and after the opening of gifts.
Wild birds often make their nests in cedar trees; those nests are a great place for tiny gifts such as money or jewelry. After Christmas, remove the nest and save it to plant next spring - not to raise birds but to help children see whether any seeds will sprout and grow!
Seeds the birds dropped when feeding their young will sprout and grow in the flower garden. Itís also interesting to open the old nest over a white cloth and try to identify the seeds that fall out as you observe the intricate way in which the parent birds weave various materials together as they build each spring. A friend found that some of her own hair had been used by wild birds to construct a nest that fell in her yard.
One year, on Dec. 23, all of my Christmas tree orders had been delivered, and a fellow we hardly knew, Walter Frank Gerard, came to visit. Mom played the piano, and we discovered that this guy loved to sing. I grabbed my fiddle and joined in.
The telephone rang, and I took one more "last call" for a Boone County cedar Christmas tree. The man wanted a really big one, "at least 6 feet tall." I raised the price by $1 because I didnít really want to cut one more tree, but this order was for the biggest tree of all. The man said, "The price is fine. Itís for a fraternity dance on Christmas Eve. Weíll take six of those trees."
I helped Walter Frank Gerard cut those six big cedar trees and load them onto Dadís wagon to haul to the truck for delivery. I was also impressed that day with this fellowís good nature, his maturity and willingness to help - and his great singing voice! That was during the Depression.
Seven years later, he and I were happy to promise to be "best friends - forever."