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