Montana’s big moment–and big tree (revised)

Er–Note: This post contains several errors. Consult the next post, "Eating Crow," for details.

White House tree, KPAX
KPAX Montana's News Station

Read carefully, then answer the questions in the quiz at the end of the article.

My home state is apparently just about bursting with pride, having been chosen for the singular honor of supplying the nation's Capital Christmas Tree this year. It's a rotating honor; Vermont, a five-time winner, is still recovering from its stint last year; Arizona is doing deep breathing and multiple push-ups to prepare for its turn next year.

The tree's vital statistics are widely and variously reported, being critical to its role. There's near-complete unanimity about the age of the tree: a hundred and forty-four years, give or take a few. However,  sources demonstrate an odd inability to agree on what you'd think would be the simplest of facts, the height of the tree. Some sources say it measures 78 feet, but a cbs2 reporter who must be wearing two push-up bras confidently reports 68. One overenthusiastic Montana TV website says it's a hundred feet long. As a loyal Montanan, I am going with a hundred and fifty.

With a reporter's typical reluctance to reveal sources, the cbs2 reporter remains circumspect even about the tree's source, saying, "That tree, we are told, was grown in Montana." Well, she's being careful; the people, whoever they are, who claimed that the tree came from Montana might have been wrong. Or lying. There's been quite a rash of lies about tree sources recently. I'd tell you how I know, except I can't reveal my sources.

The Montana tree arrived at the White House yesterday, having traveled over 4,000 miles on what's more like a victory tour than a straightforward journey. Either that, or it got lost shortly after being cut in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest, because it put in 2,000 miles in Montana alone.

On Nov. 15, ten days before the tree got to D.C., The New York Times reported that the cost had reached about $400,000. Relax, though; it's covered almost entirely through private donations. I find this both charming and appalling.

The 78-foot tall subalpine fir, short-listed two years ago (who says the U.S. can’t plan ahead?), was cut in the Sapphire Mountains in south-western Montana not so very far from Bozeman, where I live, then loaded by crane onto a flatbed truck. A long one.

White House tree, starts j.KPAX
KPAX Montana's News Station

During the three-week trip, the tree was attended by its own personal care-taker (tree nanny?) 2008 Montana Capital Christmas Tree coordinator Nan Christianson, district ranger of the Bitterroot National Forest. In the final miles, the entourage acquired a police escort and security detail, and the welcoming committee in D.C. included Max Baucus, Montana’s senior senator. The entire Montana delegation—senators Baucus and Jon Tester, our one congressman Denny Rehberg, and the governor Brian Schweitzer—will attend the lighting ceremony on Dec. 2, an exodus that will cut Montana's population in half.

Now for the quiz:
1: How much water does a nearly 80-foot long tree need each day after it's cut?
    a) 25 gallons
    b) 50 gallons
    c) 35 gallons
    d) none; it does better on beer.

2) What's the difference between the National Christmas tree and the Capital Christmas Tree?
    a) Every other answer starting with b), and sometimes i).
    b) The National tree is an 18 -foot pipsqueak from Pennsylvania, while the Capital tree—well, it’s from Montana.
    c) Thirty-five gallons of water.
    d) The National tree ceremony was started in 1913 courtesy of Calvin Coolidge, the Capital in 1964 thanks to John McCormack, Speaker of the House.
    e) The National tree is a traitor, while the Capitoa tree is a patriot.
    f) The National tree arrived by horse-drawn wagon, while the Capital tree arrived by truck.
    g) There isn't one. It's the same tree.
    h) The National tree is planted somewhere near the White House, while the Capital tree sits on the West Lawn of the Capital building.
    i) If I cared once, I don't now.
    j) It’s impossible to answer this logically.

True or False:
3)    The National Christmas tree appears on a Hanukkah card sent out by the Bushes.
4)    The Capital tree, a tradition since 1964, is also known as the People’s tree.
5)    There exists an official song for the Capital Christmas tree.

6)     Until this year, the lights on the Capital Christmas tree were shredded along with the tree.

1) C.

2) You tell me. It's a) or j) or both or neither.

3), 4), 5), 6) –All true.

Which means that yes, the White House did manage to produce a card inviting American-Jewish leaders to a Hanukkah celebration, said card featuring a Christmas tree. Go figure.

And yes, there is an official song, which you can find on the official website. It’s not bad, even if it is an official song for a tree, written and sung by a Native-American who sounds country-western, a combination that kind of makes my head spin.

But you will all be happy to hear that as of this year, the Christmas-tree lights will no longer be shredded along with the People's tree. Seriously. They won't be.

12 Responses to Montana’s big moment–and big tree (revised)

  1. I think I was too, Susan, which must be one reason why it took me most of the day to write this. I mean–what can one say in the face of such determined idiocy?

  2. To be honest, I can’t tell which bothers me more, water wasted on keeping a tree that size alive or fuel consumed getting the tree to DC.
    I keep telling myself that water is not scarce in all parts of the country, but I guess the worry about it is just too ingrained in me.
    Oh well, as Anna said, it’s tradition. But then, should that be an excuse for blatant waste? Couldn’t they have found a closer, smaller tree?

  3. Please tell me this is a joke.

  4. Yes, Anna, it is. And part of me is thoroughly amused, but another part is appalled.
    Susan, if you have the strength to wade through the revised version, you’ll find something about smaller, closer trees.
    Sure, Laurel, I can tell you, but it wouldn’t be true.

  5. All the time I was reading this, I was thinking ‘I know I’m meant to be finding this silly’ – while, inside, my excitement was growing.
    I can’t explain it or justify it, it simply does seem like a wonderful journey.
    I gulped at the age of the tree – but I don’t know how many there are or what would have happened to this one if it hadn’t gone on its epic journey to Washington.
    I don’t know . . . I just can’t stop thinking the ‘wrong’ thoughts about this.
    And the picture of the tree being lowered onto the wagon – well . . . umm . . . I find my spirits rising and can’t stop thinking its very exciting . . . umm . . . don’t know what’s come over me!
    P.S. I turn the lights on and off as I walk round the house, I don’t have lights at all on the Christmas tree, I don’t put more water in the kettle than is needed, I recycle everything I can, . . . maybe that’s it . . . sometimes it’s good to break out and do something really exciting and dramatic . . . it turns Christmas into a real festival when for all the rest of the year one is trying to be abstemious and austere.
    . . . or maybe it’s because I don’t have much money . . . a shared project like this which everyone can enjoy . . . it’s even spread across the Atlantic because I’m sitting here thinking ‘what fun’.
    Bread and Roses!
    (Quite a lot to be said in their favour!)

  6. My thoughts are racing and plenty, but not one of them nice enough to type at the moment.
    I guess it would be to simple to plant a dadgum tree in the front lawn and leave it to grow…

  7. I’m alternately delighted and apalled.
    But then I wonder how much are the actual costs of any of the ‘special’ trees that adorn our major cities?
    Birmingham, England gets one from Norway every year as a thank you from the people of Norway for the help received during WWII. And I grew up knowing that. That people from another country were grateful to my city. I can’t decide whether that’s great or just lunacy nowadays.

  8. Lucy, VP, I know, I kept thinking as I wrote this, the tone’s wrong. I’m turning into a Grinch. And only as I read your comments did it occur to me that the solution would have been to acknowledge the dilemna. Duh. Sigh. Back to the drawing board. I did reinsert one sentence that somehow fell out during the editing process and that’s so close to your first sentence, VP, that I assumed you were quoting me.
    So, ang, I’m torn. Yeah, it would be lots simpler–but is ceremony always a mistake? I don’t know–if this were a movie, a good one, it would let us both laugh at the whole thing and enjoy it.

  9. Perhaps you purchased a YAWA gardening expert mind meld Kate, which got you locked in with me by mistake? If so, I’m giving you a refund right away ;)

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