Christmas day is rapidly approaching. It will soon be the day before Christmas Eve, and then it will be Christmas Eve itself, the day when I traditionally commence the process of beginning to think about starting my Christmas shopping.     
    This is not because I am a procrastinator. It is mainly because I do not particularly like shopping, much in the same way that many guys might say they do not particularly like ingrown toenails.     
    Besides, there is nothing like having a deadline breathing down your neck to give a guy inspiration. One of the more inspired gifts I once purchased for my wife was a sparkling new chainsaw.     
    It was a superb chainsaw, a top-of-the-line model. But, did she appreciate it? No. You would think she would have at least commented on the fact that my thoughtful present had an automatic chain oiler and an easy pull recoil starter. All I will say about her reaction to my nifty gift is that it is a good thing it was not gassed up or things might have gotten a bit dicey at our house, if you know what I mean.     
    It is the thought that counts, or so goes the old proverb. I learned the truth of this at a young age at the base of a make-do Christmas tree.     
    Back when I was a tyke, Christmas trees were free if you were a patron of Haas and Wolfe Lumber Company. I recall the excitement of accompanying Dad to the lumberyard to select the perfect tree from among the dozens of prospects that were lined up along the wall of their shed. The aroma of new lumber made my seven siblings and me giddy. The idea that we might soon be receiving loads of loot from Santa may have contributed to our animated mood.     
    Getting a Christmas tree meant that the Christmas season was fully upon us and that we had best be on our best behavior. Earnest letters were written to Santa, arguing we had been especially good, and we really, really deserved a new BB gun or Chasing the Holsteins Back Into Their Pen Barbie doll.     
    Never mind that our family was quite large and our financial condition quite precarious. We were appealing to a higher power, that is, St. Nick himself.     
    When I was 10 years old, disaster struck. Haas and Wolfe Lumber Company suspended their policy of giving away Christmas trees. Dad decreed that the cost of a tree was more than we could afford. We would simply have to go without.     
    “But, where will Santa put his presents?” came the cry from eight urchins. Dad said perhaps we could make do with a bough cut from one of our evergreens.     
    There was a quartet of spruce trees located a few yards from our farmhouse. The trees had been planted by Dad’s great-uncles, the pair of brothers who had homesteaded our farm. Perhaps the trees were Norway spruces. Maybe Dad’s great-uncles had carried spruce seeds in the pockets of their tattered jackets during their storm-tossed steamship voyage from Norway to America.     
    Faced with the choice of having a make-do Christmas tree or no tree at all, we chose the former. I recruited a couple of my siblings, and we trudged across our farmstead, braving the chest-deep snow and the subzero cold until we reached the spruce trees. We selected a likely low-hanging branch, whacked it off with our hacksaw and dragged it to the house.     
    We set up the bough in our traditional Christmas tree spot by the north wall of the living room. We decorated the branch the best we could, using the strategy of hanging as much glittery stuff on it as humanly possible. Following a longstanding family tradition, we hauled out the string of electric Christmas lights we had used since the Middle Ages. Untangling the lights was a process that was similar to wrestling with an angry octopus. It nearly caused me to break my promise to Santa regarding the use of bad words.     
    When we were done, we stood back and appraised our work. If you squinted your eyes and used your imagination, you could almost believe that it was a three-dimensional tree and not just a flat bough.     
    Our make-do tree did the trick. Santa indeed came and left each of us kids some presents, although not nearly as many as we had requested.      
    “See?” Dad said on Christmas morning, “Santa thought it was a good enough tree. And that’s all that counts.”
    And of course, Dad was right.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.