Spruce or Pine?

 The pines are the preferred tree by old-timers and those in the know, because their needles are soft, they last longer in the house, and I suspect,  because they are really hard to find and even harder to cut safely. It must be kind of fun to tell someone unfamiliar with the area, " you really need  a pine, just go out to 11-mile, they're all over the place up there." It is a nice place to go for a walk, if you are John Svenson or Reinhold Messner.
Yesterday I was at the 11-mile  pond, sitting on  a log lacing my skates when I looked up and saw my tree-hunting husband spread eagle on an ice-coated cliff about fifty feet above the road. I yelled to be careful. He hollered back something-- "help", maybe, or perhaps "be quiet", or it could have been "goodbye, tell the children I love them."
I was wearing a helmet skating on the level ice. He didn't even have a rope to scale the mountain and he was carrying a folding saw. The next time I saw him he was up on top of a jagged ledge, shaking a tree to see if I approved. It looked tall, really tall, from down where I was us. By then, I was sure he would die and ruin Christmas, not just for this year, but forever.
I  shouted "if you die you will spoil Christmas." He shook the tree harder  and shouted, in verbal shorthand "this one or go higher?"
"That one!" I answered, then I skated away so I wouldn't have to witness him tumble. I hoped he would at least land on the tree, and that it was thicker than it looked and would cushion the impact. The holiday would not be ruined by a broken bone. We have crutches. Last year, I had a concussion and six staples in my head as a result of a spill on the ice at Chilkoot Lake but managed to serve a fine Christmas dinner. I don't remember who came, but just yesterday someone told me they had a lovely time.
My husband managed to wrestle the 15 foot tall, 18 inch wide tree down to the road, only breaking 6 of it's 9 branches. Seeing it sticking out the back of his truck, it was obvious why these trees are called lodge pole pines. Still, he had almost paid the ultimate sacrifice for a happy Christmas, so I didn't  remind him that the ceiling in the alcove where we always put the tree is 8 feet tall.
He did say that the tree had appeared wider on the mountain, and shorter.
This morning he  walked out into the beach meadow behind our house, which looks like a Christmas tree farm, and cut a lovely shaped full Sitka spruce.  It is perfect, except for the sharp needles, but I'll use garden gloves to hang the lights and ornaments. Dorothy was right, sometimes what you are searching for is right in your own backyard.


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