Evans “Buddy” King
It’s the time of year when the thoughts of most of us turn to Christmas — Christmas trees in particular at this moment for me.
Last year I threw out my nine-foot polyethylene fake tree because enough of the embedded lights had burned out that it had begun to look like a plastic version of the tree in the old Peanuts comic strip.
Rather than merry, it had taken on the look of moribund. So I am now debating whether to replace it.
This is not an easy decision since I now live alone and any decorating will inure only to my own benefit. Maybe I could invite the Fed Ex guy in for coffee and show him the tree I put up, or maybe I’ll get lucky and someone trying to sell me a home security system will stop by.
I am not cynical though and still like the special times of the year, particularly this season, so I have decided to put down on paper (screen actually) some of my Christmas tree memories to see where they lead me.
As a kid we always put our tree up on a Friday night — it was the only night of the week that my father was relaxed enough and had enough time for the activity. Plus Friday nights were always magical and liberating times, particularly the Friday before Christmas.
It was always the Friday night closest to Christmas, the season not beginning the day after Labor Day, as it seems to now.
I have wonderful memories of going to the woods near a family friend’s farm in Cambria and watching my Dad cut down a tree or going to the old Kroger store on Main Street in Christiansburg and selecting one from the Kiwanis Club lot.
We would take the tree home and then go through what I considered at the time to be an ordeal — we would get a very large bucket from the basement and take it out to the end of our driveway and fill it with the small gravel that conveniently washed down Cherry Lane every year, apparently just for this use (my parents complained to each other for 50 years that there was never a curb built on the street — or much of anywhere else in Christiansburg — I concluded that you needed to live in an affluent city in the north if you wanted one — I was not really sure what curbs or sidewalks looked like).
Anyway, we would fill the bucket to the point that it was too heavy to carry and then my father and I would somehow get it in the house and stick the tree through the wet, loose gravel to the point that a major earthquake would not shake it. It was then ready for decorating. No fancy stands for us.
We had three different sizes of colored lights, small, medium and large – none of these cute little sparkling white lights that are ubiquitous now. When my mother suggested occasionally that we get all one-size bulbs, or lights of all one color, my father and I objected as if she wanted to change the celebration of Christmas to June 25. We always outvoted my mother when it came to matters of sentimentally and tradition.
Later in my high school years, I had the opportunity as a Key Clubber to be one of the salesmen at Kroger helping the Kiwanis Club sell its trees. While I was quite shy at this point in life, I relished these times and did quite well conversationally when confronted by adults in the Christmas spirit looking for the perfect tree. In the Christiansburg of that time, we knew almost everyone who stopped by to look for a tree, or so it seemed.
More importantly, there was always the remote possibility that I would be on duty when my crush du jour would go into Kroger or stop by with her dad to look at the trees. There was nothing cooler then than wearing your letter jacket and being in charge of the Kiwanis tree lot on a cold December night.
I have a somewhat less Norman Rockwell-like Christmas tree story from my law school days. There are few better feelings than finishing the last exam your first semester of law school — and for this to occur on a Friday, and the Friday before Christmas, made this event a special time of special times for me.
Naturally, many of my classmates and I gathered shortly after exams ended at noon to “relax” and enjoy the brief respite from having our noses in books. There was little talk of law school, just a release of tension that had been building for four months.
Two of my best friends from my study group and I left the party and decided to “surprise” my wife when she got home from work by getting a tree to put up in the small apartment where she and I lived. Encouraged by our good friend Dr. Anheuser Busch, Bill, Gary and I got the job done about the time my wife got home from work.
Unfortunately, her entrance sparked a series of events which started with our cat Wally deciding to climb the fully decorated tree, which led to the tree toppling forward onto the floor, which then led to our golden retriever Sundog deciding that if we were kind enough to bring a tree inside it must be okay to use it like a fire hydrant, which led to the popping and sparking of hot lights that were becoming wet.
My friends and I found this to be one of the funniest things we had ever witnessed. My wife, not so much so. If only we had found some loose gravel and a bucket.
I have to give a brief account of the Christmas tree story of my law partner and friend Gordon. Gordon is what we used to refer to as a “confirmed bachelor” — if you look up eccentric in the dictionary, his picture will be there.
He is also brilliant and knows more about more things than anyone I know. Despite living alone, he enjoys decorating for Christmas, but tends to leave his tree up from year to year — not an artificial tree but a real one. He usually takes it down only when the decorations start to slide off or when the Bridgeport Fire Department issues a citation.
He likes to time the “taking down of the old tree” to summer when the law students clerking for us are in town. He will then have the annual party known as the “Mint julep and help me take down the Christmas tree party.”
A few years ago Gordon had trouble with his chimney which allowed a squirrel or two from his yard to come in and out of the house and nest in the tree at will, at least until the tree became too bare.
Many a time I enjoyed the fear and shock on unsuspecting faces when Rocky would hop out of the tree and race to the fireplace and disappear. You cannot make this stuff up.
I wish I had time to do justice to the “dual”— and dueling — Christmas trees my wife and I used to put up — suffice it to say that hers looked like Macy’s window and mine like Kelly’s Bar. Her tree featured bows and ribbons and beautiful balls, mine stuff from my favorite sports teams and places we had been. I am sure you get the image.
Well, I’m not sure where this leaves me on this year’s tree. My cat Scarlett has voted yes, but I question her intentions.
Evans “Buddy” King grew up in Christiansburg and graduated from CHS in 1971. He lives in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he practices law with the firm of Steptoe and Johnson PLLC.