Tree Story

Jane Mitchell pines for Christmas year-round

Jane may not know about sugar, but she's still a font of Christmas tree information: Most people buy trees around December 10, and nearly every tree sold today comes from a tree farm, not the forest. It takes six or seven years to grow an eight-foot Douglas fir, and about three years longer for a good noble. Your tree will last longer if you shut any nearby heater vents and draperies; and, no matter how dried-out it gets, no Christmas tree will ever burst into flames. "Trees don't spontaneously combust," she sighs. "A dried-out tree that catches fire will mostly smolder. Unless you douse it with gasoline first."

Jane Mitchell
Jane Mitchell

When I confess that I can't tell a pine from a fir, Jane invites me -- for the fifth time -- to work one of her lots. I give in and, several hours later, I'm impersonating a tree salesman. That is, until one shopper threatens to place a pox on my family if I don't sell her the 20-foot inflatable Santa guarding the lot entrance. Unequipped with the warmth and charm displayed by every other Mitchell employee, I sneak off the lot and head for my car. As I'm leaving, I hear someone say, "It's always so merry here," and the sound of Jane's hoarse laughter, pealing like a Christmas bell.

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