Sunday, October 10, 2004

Realizing that it's morning already in England and the Badger family will be coming home soon, and in hopes she'll feel she got her money's worth out of me in her absence -- and also having promised something a little lighter than the direction those other posts seem to have taken, here for your reading enjoyment is a report I provided for friends a few years ago following our annual post-Thanksgiving family tree-chopping expedition.

World History Made in Cupertino!

Rarely in the normal course of life do you experience an event which you feel safe in saying has never happened before, ever, in the history of the entire world -- probably not even in anyone's wildest dreams (and I for one have been known to concoct some doozies in that realm!)

However, I feel quite safe in saying that no one has *ever* selected a Christmas tree, in quite the manner we did this past weekend!

A bit of background...

Our family tradition is to pack up the poultry sandwiches, as many strong and able-bodied young turks as possible and head for the hills the day after Thanksgiving in search of...The Big Tree.

Typically there is much good-natured grousing involved, especially on drippy foggy mornings when, rousted out of bed by the cheerful sound of the doorbell, certain family members mutter direly wishful predictions about being "rained out". Once underway, however, the inevitable friendly bickering as to essential qualities of The Perfect Tree begins -- must be huge, must be "fluffy", must *not* be "shorn" looking. Certain individuals feel that circumference and overall weight should be considered as well as proximity to downhill vehicular access, but that's never happened so...

This year the search party was large enough to split into three teams, with the plan being that when potential trees were spotted, one team member would remain stationed as Guardian of The Tree while the Runner was dispatched to collect the other teams and lead them in to review the selection. (An aside: By default, I am always a Guard, since "running", in my case would likely involve tripping, falling, screaming, and generally embarrassing the rest of the troops) -- (Another aside: embarrassing the troops is something I have assiduously tried to avoid ever since the year That Other Woman was spotted wearing reindeer antlers ((identical to a pair I also own but happened not to have worn that day)) and *braying* cheerfully to her family as they cringed their way through the woods -- a long story for some earlier unwritten narrative)

Where were we...

By coincidence, this year all three teams located, secured and dispatched runners to alert the others to High Potential Trees at far flung corners of The Many-Acred Tree Farm. This necessitated a complex and highly-orchestrated rotation of the troops for the Comparative Tree Viewing process (we always operate on a consensus system with Mom's Opinion, of course, carrying triple weight in the final decision making process, but since Mom's Opinion, is strategically formed by a subtle evaluation of Everyone Else's Opinion, it is crucial for the Final Decision to take place in the presence of all parties). In short, there was a lot of running around, much shouting, and excellent exercise.

Finally, although it was a *really* tough decision, The Tree was selected. This only took place, however, after a sub-group went off to re-view The Backup Tree since there were some complexities involved of which we had not been aware during the first round. (Did the pinecones growing abundantly atop The Backup Tree sufficiently offset its "too shorn" appearance to a degree that would put it in first place now that we realized that the more natural and wider though shorter tree was actually a bit "prickly"?) (You can see why this often becomes an all-day affair)

By the time we all re-convened at the "This is It" tree, however, some Unforeseen Developments had taken place. An Other Family was there!

It seems that the beer can, which appeared to have been carelessly tossed into the branches of TheTree, and which we had removed and deposited with our own trash back at the car, was not just a random act of litter (never mind that we had noticed eleven other trees with beer cans similarly adorning their branches) it was (they claimed) their Mark!

"But, we posted a Guard!"

"But, our Mark was there first!"

"Beer can? What beer can??? Anybody see a beer can around here?? "

Seems they were not proponents of The Guard System -- their Malt Marker System trains troops to stay together, evaluate trees in unison, mark prospects until the beer runs out and then go back for the best one.


"Wait, Honey" (said the wife of The Other Family) "Wasn't this the one with The Dead Mouse?" (after twelve beers and a lot of tree-marking, no one else seemed quite sure)

"Dead mouse?" said those of us from The Backup Tree re-viewing sub-party.

"Gee" said one of our female Guards. "Would that possibly be the dead mouse over there that Someone found in the tree and threw at me while the rest of you were gone?"

Close inspection produced agreement by all concerned that this indeed was The Dead Mouse. Priority rights were thus established (although they agreed wholeheartedly that the Guard system was more compelling than the Beer Can Marker system) disappointment was swallowed, and we prepared to return to The Backup Tree (fearing that since it had now been left unguarded it would have fallen into other hands resulting in ((gasp!)) Treelessness for The Troops, and here it is past noon already!)

Our distress was obvious even through their alcohol-induced haze, and it was clear that these folks were in fact Nice People. Hurried conversation was heard among them. "What, I really want this tree!...but they..."

Just as we were about to leave, someone suggested doing "rock paper scissors" for it.

"Or, we could flip a coin?"

"Well, OK...sure"

"Waidaminute" said Eldest Son. "Why don't we flip the mouse?!"


"Ok, your family stand over there, our family stands here. What's your family name? Hi, Nice to meet you! So if it lands with the head pointing toward your family you get the tree. If the head's pointing toward our family, we get the tree, OK?"

"Fair enough!"

(Flip. Splat.)

It was close, but by about five degrees the mouse head pointed toward The Other Family. Cheers and groans erupted on either side, hands were shaken,we prepared to retire gracefully, and my Beloved Husband (who was seriously hoping to Get This Over With!) broke out a beer to drown his sorrows.

A beer?

"They have beer???" (said one guy from The OtherFamily) "Let's reconsider this, folks. You know, we could let you have this tree, for say...a couple of those beers!"

"Hey, how about if I throw in a few turkey sandwiches and some homemade brownies?"


And so it happened that we became the proud bearers of a shorter than usual (which means that we didn't have to cut more than a few additional inches off the thing to get it in the house) nicely shaped, not too heavy, fluffy looking though deceptively prickly tree, which I am absolutely certain is the first tree in the history of the world to have been selected by means of the flip of a dead mouse and the barter of beer & brownies!

And now, Dear Readers, it's time for me to return you to your regularly scheduled program. Ms. Badger, I had a fabulous time playing here while you were gone! Hope we didn't do too much damage to the furniture, and that you and your own Beloved had a truly wonderful weekend.

Hugs all around,


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