DCC News


Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church


December 21, 2007



The $3 Christmas Tree

The perfect Christmas Tree.

That is what I was looking for a couple weeks before Christmas there in Washington State where we lived. It was on the western edge of the Rockies. A few miles north was Canada and a few miles east was Idaho.

It was such a long time ago that when I was in Spokane, Washington (2½ miles south of our home) at a restaurant one day….I asked the waitress for the name of the excellent coffee that they were serving. She didn’t know, so she went into the kitchen and came back out and said it was a small place in Seattle called Starbucks Coffee. (Obviously that was before the explosion of Starbucks Coffee Shops across the world…hence my point of how long ago it was that I lived in Washington State.)

We lived in such an isolated area of the country that when the actor, Kevin Costner was looking for a location for is movie “The Postman” in which to portray the isolation and desolation after a nuclear war…he choose our town of Metaline Falls. This happened 5 years after I left, but to this day I can watch the movie and see sights and people whom I know quite well.

So, for the first time in my life, I was living amidst the ideal setting for going into the mountains and cutting one’s own tree and trucking it back into town to our home.

There were two rules for cutting a Christmas Tree down in the national forests up in that region.

  • 1. Buy a $3 tag which gave you permission to cut
  • 2. Drive into the mountains and through the forests and find your own tree, cut it and get it back to your house on your own.

That seemed pretty simple and basically it was. If you had the $3 tag in your possession and had a tree and were stopped by a Forest Ranger….just show him/her your tag and they would wish you “Merry Christmas.” And, having a Forest Ranger stop and question you in the mountains and forests of Northeastern Washington about the Evergreen tree in the back of your pick-up was highly unlikely .

But we played fair and got the $3 permit.

Now all I needed was a pick-up truck and someone with knowledge of the forest and mountain roads. Both were supplied by Ben, a church member and an assistant Forest Ranger (and another good reason to play fair and buy the permit.)


We went up into the mountains about 5 miles from the Canadian Border. He knew all the roads and in fact, had scouted out some likely areas during the summer when he was in the region. I found out later that the Rangers and locals all scouted a bit for their Christmas Trees during the delightful summer months or the Autumn when they were hunting elk. Come, Christmas time, they knew the exact spot to go to.

It made sense too, for on the Sunday afternoon on which we drove into the mountains, there was a snowstorm. The higher elevations had long since been snow covered and now in early December, our town was being blanketed with snow. The mountains and the snow were amazing. Just like the day I had always dreamed of for cutting my own Christmas Tree.

Snow capped peaks. Lazy, long, winding snow covered logging roads which wound through the forests. We were the only ones around… probably for many, many miles. That could have been a real problem for city slickers who routinely came to hunt the vast forests and would get lost…and occasionally die from hypothermia. But Ben knew the roads, had a good pick-up and probably some survival skills should we find ourselves in a desperate situation.

Clearly this was a different Christmas Tree-buying experience from the previous year in Berkeley when I bought a tree from a guy named Larry wearing cut-offs and an Hawaiian shirt on Solano Ave near the San Francisco Bay.

Ben drove into the mountains. We wound around through some areas where he had spotted a grove of Evergreens. The perfect tree was right there for the cutting. I thought I might have to lay on the ground and cut the base of the tree but I forgot…I was in the mountains of Washington in the back country…they wouldn’t allow anyone to move into the county without prior knowledge of chainsaw operation.

Ben fired up the Husqvarna and cut it down. We tossed my Genuine-Mountain-Cut-Christmas-Tree into the back of the pick-up and then another tree for his family and we went back down the mountain in four-wheel drive to the town.

Not exactly Currier & Ives…but not exactly Larry’s in Berkeley either.

Holiday Greetings of Peace to All, Bob