Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Scurrying for cover ...

One of the rituals of America's holiday season is the annual installation of an always-perfect Christmas tree at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. Since the 1970s, the tree selection process has taken on a life of its own, with states vying for the honor of supplying the tree. It's usually good for a few newspaper articles, though I tend to think the trees involved always look better standing in the forest, alive.

Montana has supplied the Capitol's Christmas tree twice, most recently in 2008. The other time was in 1989, when Montana used its statehood centennial as a hook to win the Christmas tree honor. That June, a federal landscape architect headed out to the Kootenai National Forest and selected a handsome spruce tree outside of Libby -- a town whose heritage is inexorably tied to logging. In conjunction with local volunteers, the Forest Service scheduled the tree-chopping for mid-November, a public event with lots of press coverage.

And here's how it all went down, according to the Associated Press:
Libby, Mont. (AP) -- Residents watching the cutting of a 90-foot spruce selected as the U.S. Capitol's Christmas tree went scurrying for cover when the falling tree twisted out of control and crashed across a road.

The Giant spruce toppled onto a crane mounted on a logging truck waiting to haul it away. Ten feet broke off the top when volunteers tried to move it at the Kootenai National Forest in northwestern Montana.

A crowd of about 300 was on hand for the weekend tree-cutting. [...]

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jeannie Spooner said guy wires were attached to the first tree to lower it, but the tension on the wires apparently wasn't even.
After the mishap, the loggers headed down the road a ways, chopped down an alternate tree, and bundled it into a railroad car for shipment to Washington, so all was well. But still, the event was mainly noted for the fact that not even the Forest Service could manage to chop down a tree properly ...

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