My first memory of the sport of Christmas tree hunting is from when I was a bright-eyed 5-year-old, living in Montana. My kindergarten teacher’s husband took our class which consisted of eight boys and me (now you know why kindergarten was my favorite school experience, bar none), on an exciting excursion to a nearby pine forest and cut trees down for us.

They were very small and perfect for the small people we were then. It went into the bedroom I shared with my little sister and made us feel very special that we had a tree in our room. We would fall asleep basking in the glow of the twinkling lights on the tree, which was situated on a nightstand between our beds.

My first grown-up tree excursion was after I moved to Sioux Falls in 1981. My mom and dad came for a visit. Mom thought it would be nice if I had a tree of my own in my first apartment and I acquiesced since she was also offering to buy.

I told her about a Christmas tree place I had heard about. It was rumored to be located in someone’s backyard. They supposedly had great trees and were really nice people. I got directions and we headed out. We got there and indeed it really was a home operation.

That “home operation” morphed into “Baumgartner’s Christmas Trees” over the years, and is still the destination for me, for live Christmas trees- - when I put one up. The chilly air, the smell of pine, the tree shaking contraption that vibrates the majority of dead needles and freeloading critters out of your tree, stuffing the tree in your vehicle - -this is the stuff holiday memories are made of!

The years, (like this one) when I'm heading elsewhere for Christmas, I simply put up a tabletop artificial tree. It's much easier for my cat Gabby to pull down and mangle. Good news for her, irritating for me.

On the plus side, there are no needles to vacuum out of the carpet for months to come, no aching back after lugging it into the house and getting it into the tree stand, by myself, no sticky pitch on hands, face, and clothing, from being too up close and personal with a conifer.

On the minus side, no anticipation of going out to find the perfect tree, no real pine smell, no giant ornaments that wow, no major rush of satisfaction when the decorating is done, no sitting under the tree with a hot toddy, no watching the lights create moveable art on the ceiling and walls of the hovel where I live.

Oh well, perhaps next year I'll once again find myself in the hunt for that perfectly shaped, fragrant Fraser Fir!

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