Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

When it comes to Christmas trees, the Venables have pretty much been there, done that. 

Through the years, our home has seen artificial trees, freshly cut trees, and trees in a ball of soil to be planted in the New Year. 

We’ve had hemlocks, firs, cedars, and pines. 

Tall ones that had to be tied to the loft railing. Short ones that could’ve stood in a coffee can. Fat ones. Skinny ones. You name it. 

But until last December, we’d never had a leafless, bare-limbed Charlie Brown tree. Or, I should more accurately say, a Charlie Brown tree elevated to the 12th power. Therein lies a story. 

I was coming in from deer hunting one afternoon and happened to notice the barren crown of a large tree in the woods. It was a perfect triangle. And it got me to thinking, “Hmmm.” 

The next day I was back, this time with a hand saw instead of a rifle. I prowled around in a nearby overgrown field, looking for saplings that weren’t surrounded by competition. That way, they were less likely to be one-sided. 

I located and sawed three 8-foot specimens: hackberry, yellow poplar and Bradford pear. 

The hackberry turned out to be too bushy. The poplar was too thin, not enough decent limbs for ornaments. But the Bradford pear, after a bit of surgery, was perfect. 

Please understand: I’m talking a tree without one leaf whatsoever. Nothing but trunk and branches. I put it into the stand, screwed everything down tight and positioned it in the “Christmas tree corner” of our log house.

Mary Ann and I prefer tiny white lights for our Yule tree, so we set about circling it with cord. The job was going OK-ish when M.A., ever the artist, stepped back, studied a moment and said, “Wait. Let’s wrap the wires around each limb, up and down.” 

So done. Then out came boxes of decorations. 

Holy holidays! You’d be amazed how easily they went on! 

No poking fingertips with needles. No needles to shed, either. No sticky sap. 

The heavier ornaments were ideal for weighing down the larger, more vertical limbs. Lighter ones filled in the gaps on horizontal branches. 

Yet something was missing. 

Of course! A pear Christmas tree needs a partridge. And I knew the perfect candidate. 

Decades ago, my Aunt Eva had a large mimosa removed from her yard. A woodworker friend of hers took it. In exchange, he carved her a pair of quail. Eva gave them to me long before her death in 1986. 

With hidden tape and a bright red ribbon, we mounted one “pot’tidge” on a limb and declared this was our prettiest, if not most unusual, Christmas tree ever. 

(Now, if I could just get that dadgum leaping lords, dancing ladies, milking maids, swimming swans, partridge-in-a-pear tree song out of my head.)

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. Contact him at