WRITER’S NOTE: I wrote this column 30 years ago for the Casa Grande Dispatch.
As in Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol,” the Christmas spirit can touch you just when you start ignoring the virtues of your fellow man, no matter how small a matter. I recall a Christmas past when this spirit tapped me on the shoulder just to remind me to have more faith.
A good friend of mine was to get married two days after Christmas and his fiancee wanted to have the church “greened” in a Christmas atmosphere. The wedding party, along with the bride and groom, were all still in college, and funds for the wedding were limited. The groomsmen were left to their own devices to locate a number of Christmas trees that could be cut up to decorate the walls and rafters of the church.
We men were given the order of a dozen or so Christmas trees. First we thought about driving up to Mount Lemmon from Tucson and cutting down some trees. But the lack of any permit, and the environmental implications, contributed to vetoing the idea. We figured we could come up with at least four trees the day after Christmas from our own households, but this still left us short of the quota.
Finally it was decided that on Christmas Eve we would “steal” some Christmas trees from one of the various lots selling the tannenbaums in the city.
We justified this action by figuring no one would be looking to purchase a Christmas tree around midnight on Christmas Eve, and no vendor would expect to sell any trees at that time. We deduced that any Christmas trees left over at that time were destined for the garbage heap anyway. Besides, we weren’t profiting off this maneuver — it was to help decorate a church for a winter wedding.
After attending numerous Christmas Eve functions on our own, including church services, the five of us met up for our mission. We drove around the deserted city and finally found a lot in a shopping center with a number of Christmas trees. We drove our truck behind the lot so it was hidden from view of the street.
The lot was enclosed by one of those temporary chain-link fences. The plan was for two of us to climb over the fence and toss the trees over to the others, who would proceed to stuff them into the camper shell on the back of the truck.
If you have never tried to climb over a temporary fence, you don’t know what “precarious” is. The fence wobbled and moved while we tried to scale it. I felt like a canary in an earthquake as I tried to balance myself when I got to the top. To make matters worse, the top had exposed wire, which made me fear I would never be able to father children as I lifted one leg over the top and straddled the fence as it was jerking back and forth. I decided to risk it and try and make it over the fence with one quick move. I did so, tearing my pants and scratching my arms as I tumbled into the lot.
The guys outside the fence laughed at the Laurel and Hardy episode the two of us went through to get over the fence. But there were plentiful trees to be had.
After being urged to hurry up by our comrades, we began grabbing trees and tossing them over the fence, trying our best to clobber our tormentors, who had been laughing at us on the other side.
Trees were flying over the fence like they were being shot out of a machine gun and stuffed in the back of the truck like there was a deadline to meet.
When my partner and I finally heard the words, “OK, that’s enough,” our arms and hands were raw and covered with sap. We were weary, our arms and backs were sore, so we decided we wouldn’t attempt to climb back over the fence.
We glanced through the trees to the other side of the lot and to our surprise noticed the gate was open a bit.
We laughed at our stupidity for not noticing that fact when we were trying to get in. We then walked over to the gate to leave. After exiting, I turned around to shut the gate and noticed a sign on the front.
It read: “Merry Christmas. Help yourself.”
Andy Howell is assistant managing editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 520-423-8614.