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     Christmas tree:  The first Christmas trees in the United States were used in the early 1800s by German settlers in Pennsylvania. The tree probably developed in medieval Germany from the “Paradise Tree,” a type of evergreen decorated with red apples and used in a popular Christmas play about Adam and Eve. – World Book Encyclopedia


A dusting of snow the night before had left a white powder on the trail and the pine trees and now sunlight danced on the boughs, lighting our path in this winter wonderland.

Our truck slowly proceeded up the National Forest Service road in the Black Hills.

It was time, once again, for the Great Christmas Tree Hunt!

Searching for the perfect tree on a pristine Sunday afternoon with your grown children and grandchildren rivals Christmas Eve as a time for joy and thankfulness. And, with one of about 4,500 tree permits sold each year in our pocket, we were on a mission.

Our necks craned right and left, and then, at “10 o’clock,” which is how our family signals location, we saw a stand of short-needled trees. One stood out as “the tree,” but Luke, 11, gently pointed out that what I actually saw was two trees close together.

Nevertheless, we clambered out of the truck and made our way across the road, down into the ditch and up into the forest. There, dead tree trunks and branches obstructed our progress, but my 9- and 11-year-old grandsons negotiated the obstacles with little difficulty as I plodded behind. It wasn’t that the deadfall was insurmountable, it was my caution in stepping on and over the slippery trunks; I did not need a sprained ankle, or worse.

“Look, Grandpa, a red squirrel!” exclaimed Luke, who, like his younger brother, Max, loves being in nature. The squirrel bounded up a tree, raced across a branch onto the next tree, and disappeared.

As we looked about, we saw many trees that at first glance seemed to be perfect. Then, on inspection, it would be a bit too tall, or too short, or the branches were thin on one side, or the other.

“Any tree will look great once it’s decorated,” I said, after a half an hour of searching and my aching knees feeling it. But then I dropped that suggestion, remembering that the fun is in the journey, not the destination.

A shout from the other side of the road told us that other family members had found the tree we were seeking.  Sure enough, by the time we arrived the saw was at the ready awaiting only universal acclamation that this, a 6-foot Black Hills spruce, was indeed “the” tree.

It was. The perfect Christmas tree. Again.

Dec. 14, 2016