Dave Simpson: Less Is More, But This Is Ridiculous

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

You’d think a guy with four chainsaws in his garage could do better than this.

(It’s true. There’s the ancient 10-inch Homelite that started it all. “Hey, a guy could build a cabin with this thing!” Then there’s the Echo I inherited from my dad. And the workhorse 20-inch Husqvarna that earned it’s stripes cutting up beetle kill. And my swell new 14-inch TroyBilt that starts on the first pull.)

I ask you: How could a guy with this amount of raw cutting ability and do-it-yourself woodsman machismo end up with – try not to think less of me – a four-foot bottle-brush pre-lit Christmas tree in my living room?


The Dave Simpson Christmas Tree

Feel free to take a moment to put your hand to your brow, Chronic Reader, shake your head in disappointment, and wonder how Old Dave could have ended up in this sorry state. Go ahead. Take your time.

I’m a guy who years ago  felled trees, cut up downed trees, lopped off limbs with a two-sided ax, then hefted logs into place with my old roommate from UW and built an honest-to-God log cabin. We flattened the logs, cut dove-tail joints at both ends, and mortared the voids to keep out the wind and snow. We built a roof, then put it back up again after a late-spring snow brought it down.

We put on an addition, a wrap-around porch, and even a shower. I’ve worked on it for 40 years, and I’m still not quite done.

I own a come-along, wedges and several eight-pound sledges. I even own a Peavey, friends, and I know how to use it. (A lever device used for turning over big logs.)

And this is the guy who has to put his four-foot bottle-brush pre-lit artificial Christmas tree on an end table to get it to eye level?

Yes. No sense denying it. Try not to think less of me.

It’s probably a good thing my late father – a civil engineer and dedicated do-it-yourselfer – didn’t live to see what became of his youngest boy David. He built boats in the basement, had a shooting range down there, and even a darkroom. He cut his sons’ hair down there. (We all got flat tops.)

When we went out to buy a Christmas tree my dad and I always wanted the biggest, fullest natural tree we could find. My mother had to hold us back. It’s a wonder we got the monsters back home on top of the family Buick.

A perfectionist, my dad wasn’t willing to live with sparse areas in his Christmas tree. So after cutting the tree to the right height, he used discarded lower branches to fill in the voids, using his electric drill to insert branches where Mother Nature dropped the ball. When he got it up, and strung with lights, it made quite a spectacle in the bay window of our old house.

So big trees were in my blood. And for years we always had natural trees. My wife would take the kids into town when I struggled to get the tree up, so they wouldn’t learn new words from their dad.

Then there was the year the family cat decided that bringing a tree inside the house signaled that she could do outdoor things indoors, and a bunch of gifts had to be re-wrapped. That’s the year we went artificial. The cat had us over a barrel.

One year my wife said she wanted only white lights on our tree. I replied, “I hope you and your new husband will like a tree with all white lights.” She relented. We kept the colored lights, even some bubble lights, but she rigged up separate circuits so she could have her white lights when I wasn’t around.

Age comes to us all, though, and in the end, bum knees, rusty rotator cuffs, and angry sacroiliacs have had a way of dampening our enthusiasm. And when we go see the grand kids for Christmas, where they have a monster artificial tree, we find ourselves saying, “Let’s just put up a little tree this year.”

Common sense, I guess. No big deal. A no-brainer.

I’m glad, however, that I don’t have to explain it to my dad.

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