Splendor for the Sight—The Life of a Christmas Tree Farmer
This is not a Biblical story about the birth of the savior, but rather, a tale about the crowning glory of every home during the twenty fifth of December, the Christmas tree. It is a common misconception that Christmas is brought to r homes every year by some jolly fat man and a couple of elves.
Truth be told, the miracle that makes Christmas is made by sweat, agony, and strife of a few brave souls who dare the wild weather of autumn.
Just like a blacksmith ready to weld iron bars together, “You gotta strike when the iron is hot.” The same goes for Christmas tree farmers. When harvest is here and the pressure is on. they become more like animals than men to get through the only time of year that pays the expenses of the prior 11 months and several years it took to grow a tree.
When the last killing frost blows in from the North, dead needles on the pine trees shed. When the bone-chilling rains of November arrive, rough and ragged wraiths boldly go forth to face foul weather–whether it be rain, sleet, or freezing rain, the tree harvesters go undaunted. These weary weathered men stay the course in sickness, soreness, or women troubles, diligently performing their task. No matter the obstacle, they sacrifice themselves to perform the miracle of Christmas.
One such soul can be found in the Green Valley area near Hughesville. Up on top of a commanding hill at 366 Evergreen Road lies Pauling’s Tree Farm. At the forefront of making Christmas happen is Larry Pauling. His farm is small, only numbering about 40 acres of ground, but his management of the trees is what makes his farm mighty. Driving through his fields a trained eye can see the care that goes into each and every one of his trees. He has many different varieties for sale; Douglas Fir the most common and friendliest; Fraser Fir, the most coveted to buy; popular Colorado Blue Spruce, the strongest ornament-holding tree available; Canaans, Serbians, Korean Firs, Vitch from far off Japan, and Concolor the most aromatic tree.
Two species–Nordmen Fire and Turkish Fire–will be available in the upcoming years, but are not yet ready to be sold.
From a business point of view, Pauling’s customers are half wholesale and half retail, but it is the relationships that Pauling cultivates with his customers that he derives the most pleasure from.
He says, “I enjoy talkin to the people, meetin new people.” Pauling when asked about his life he tells us, “I enjoy my life immensely. When not in the tree fields I make jewelry in my shop and go hunting.”
Pauling’s Tree Farm began back in 1982 when his brother helped him decide what to plant on his newly purchased 10-acre lot. It was Christmas trees, and ever since he’s been expanding. His brother decided to do something else so Larry kept on growing. In 1991 the first trees were harvested and he has been harvesting and planting trees ever since. Ever thirsty for more knowledge on tree farming Pauling joined the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association. An organization dedicated to the agricultural and business management of Christmas Trees. He now is an active member of the board.
Besides Larry Pauling, there are other stalwart men in the Christmas tree fields trudging onward in a maelstrom of sweat and toil. They can be seen on the Pennsylvania landscape; Marvin Myers commanding his bailer crew in the Picture Rocks area, Jimmy Bishop giving orders to his men in the snow capped hills between Muncy and Turbotville, Bill Parsons constantly accompanied by the angry sound of a chainsaw in the Green Valley, Bob Berger seeking out to harvest the tug trees of his customers near Hughesville, Bruce Thompson boldly going out into the cold rain to fell trees at Plunkett’s Creek, near Katy’s Church, Dio Shetler farms off his hill, Chet Schweitzer bounds back and forth from his many farms like a bear filling his honey-pot, Lee Eisley coolly calculating his yearly projections in the high windy Muncy Hills, and finally Bill Brown barking like a bulldog in a mad attempt to get his tractor trailers loaded with trees destined for far off cities.
Other than seen, these men can be heard breaking the silence of the hills with the sound of ripping, tearing, and hacking as the chainsaws they wield furiously chew through the stumps of the trees and leaves the land Sampson shorn. The follow up musical melody, is played out by the bailer; a large red machine that is powered by a small cubic centimeter engine. Its purpose it to wrap trees up into cigar shaped torpedoes that can be easily stacked onto trucks. No matter what the weather throws at these men their presence can be felt upon the land. And despite the titanic struggle to get the job done, nothing short of god almighty can break their indomitable spirit.
Great amounts of colossal will and manpower go into bringing the Christmas tree into the typical American Home. But if you are in a store, bar, or church this holiday season and notice the damp, wet smell of snow mixed with the refreshing citrus scent of pine trees and intertwined with the nauseating stench of engine exhaust you have passed a Christmas tree harvester. Take a moment and thank him for the sacrifice he makes every year to bring us the miracle that makes Christmas.