Smiley: That ugly tree

I never think of Christmas without recalling the year my dad decided to cut a tree instead of buying one.

He must have planned this without telling anyone, because after a pre-Christmas visit to Grandma Anders, who lived outside Gloster, Miss., in the Homochitto National Forest, Dad stopped the car, took a saw out of the trunk and stomped off into the woods with me trailing behind.

He soon stopped in front of a 5-foot-tall pine that looked promising.

“What do you think, son?” he asked.

I walked around it, trying to visualize what it would look like decorated, and said I guessed it was OK.

He cut it down and tied it in the trunk with some rope he had brought along, and off we went.

My mom was skeptical, but it was Dad’s project, and he was plainly excited about it, so she didn’t protest too much.

When we got it home and set up in the living room, we discovered why Southern pine never caught on as Christmas trees.

It had looked full in the woods, but it was woefully scraggly — and when we tried to decorate it the branches were too frail to hold anything but the lightest ornaments.

Still, Dad persevered, hung colored lights on it, and proclaimed it a fine tree.

My mom and I got in the habit of rolling our eyes every time Dad told us how great “his” tree was. …

In later years, when Mom and I would mention his ugly tree, he always found a way to change the subject. He wasn’t ever going to admit that it was anything but a superb tree.

And maybe it was — because of all the Christmas trees we ever had, that scraggly little pine is the only one I still remember.

You were right all along, Pop. …

Musical interlude

  • Algie Petrere says an offbeat Christmas song that got her attention was “Run, Rudolph, Run” by Chuck Berry:

“It didn’t sound a lot like Christmas, but it definitely sounded like the ’50s.”

    Jerry Berggren says, “How about Robert Earl Keen’s redneck Christmas anthem, ‘Merry Christmas from the Family’?”

    Lana C. Todd says it’s a tradition in her family “to bring out two Christmas favorites written and recorded by my ex-brother-in-law Johnny Koonse that never received the attention they deserved — ‘Nosey (What Will Santa Bring for Christmas)’ and ‘Old Fashioned Christmas.’

“I was overjoyed to find I could buy both on CD through Flattop Records in Shreveport.”

She says Johnny, from Port Allen, now lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Ancient days

Ronnie Melancon, of Gretna, comments on Janet Leveron’s memory of getting four songs on a jukebox for a dollar:

“I must be older than dirt, because I remember six selections for a quarter on jukeboxes in Gretna — and a six-pack of Coca-Colas for 25 cents!”

Special People Dept.

  • June Blanchard, of Grosse Tete, celebrates his 100th birthday on Monday, Dec. 23. He is an Army veteran of World War II, serving in the 45th Infantry “Thunderbird” Division.
  • Arthur “Mike” E. Bigler, a Morgan City native now in River Ridge, celebrates his 100th birthday on Monday, Dec. 23. He is a World War II Army veteran; an engineer who worked on the Burma Road.

    Elise Theriot, of Pierre Part, celebrated her 98th birthday on Monday, Dec. 16.

    Viola Norwood Williams, of Clinton, celebrates her 94th birthday on Wednesday, Dec. 25.

    Edwin J. Daniels celebrates his 92nd birthday on Wednesday, Dec. 18. He is a World War II veteran who served in New Guinea and the Philippines and took part in the liberation of Bataan.

    Hilda Barr Lusted celebrated her 90th birthday on Monday, Dec. 16.

    Ernest and Emily Sanders Swanson celebrate 59 years of marriage on Monday, Dec. 23.

    Ronald and Helen Desselle celebrate their 50th anniversary on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Full house

Joel d’Aquin Thibodeaux says, “My mom, Cleo James, is 94 years old. We have been joking with her lately, saying that everyone she has known has already died and gone to heaven.

“So one night she had a dream and told us about it: ‘I dreamed there were a bunch of people standing in line in front of this door waiting to get in. I got in line, and asked why there was such a line. The lady in front of me said that everyone waiting in line had died and were waiting to get into heaven, but heaven was full!’

“Mom thinks this is tremendously funny, and says, ‘See, that’s why I haven’t died yet. Heaven is full!’ ”

It keeps on giving …

Lyn Doucet says, “I knew my friend’s 4-year-old grandson Sully was bright.

“His grandmother, a former teacher, baby-sits him and teaches him a lot as they go on errands to the grocery store, the bank, and so on.

“Still, I was impressed when his parents asked Sully what he wanted Santa to bring him.

“With perfect seriousness he replied, ‘An ATM machine.’ ”

Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.