(Host) This is a story about the annual ritual of cutting a Christmas tree.
Only, it’s not exactly what you might think.
VPR’s Susan Keese takes us to Mount Tabor where Russ Tarbell of Pawlet is on a special Christmas mission in the national forest.
(Tarbell) We’re here on fire road sixty. My ancestors farmed up here through the 1800’s and then they left the mountain here. They basically abandoned it and it grew up and reverted back to what it is now, just part of the national forest.
The actual homestead was right here on the right hand side. There’s some old apple trees in there.
I thought it would be good to come up here and cut a tree off what used to be the family farm.
And hopefully I’ll be able to do it for a good many more years and then my son will pick it up along with the grandchildren and it’ll be something that we do every year.
There’s the balsa (sic) spruce and the fir, and we’ll take either one.
This is a well that I believe served the house.
There’s a lot of old cellarholes and homesteads on the mountain other than this one. It’s progress. They just gradually moved down into the valley, closer to civilization I suppose.
I’m kind of old school. I’ve been a carpenter, I’ve been a farmer. Before I retired I was a log truck driver. And I tell a lot of people I have not gone far in my life. It’s six miles from the house I was born in to the house I live in now. Best six miles I ever traveled.
Walking… there we are. I’m going to… cut that tree. By the time I get it cut, it’ll be about six- or seven-feet. That’s it!
I have a little- well, I call it verse myself. In 1995 I had a heart attack and after that these simple verses just started comin’ into me — in the middle of the night sometimes, believe it or not.
(Reading) Today I wandered backwards, backwards into the past/ Up that steep and winding road where my ancestors have passed/ Then up that crooked rocky trail where my grandfathers once trod/ to that overgrown abandoned farm where my kinfolk turned the sod/
The cellar hole no longer square once held up house and shed/Where Grandma washed and cleaned and cooked to keep the family fed. The old stone walls once straight and square now fence in only trees/ Where horse and cattle stood and grazed in grass above their knees/ Yes today I wandered backwards. (Laughs) There you have it.
(Host) This year, Russ Tarbell decided on the balsam tree. He brought the tree to his son’s house in Danby, where it’s up and decorated. Tarbell and his wife Joyce will spend Christmas morning there with their twin grandchildren.