By Land Line staff
For nearly 50 years, a special tree has been selected from a national forest to be placed on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. It’s a project of the U.S. Forest Service with a nonprofit partner, Choose Outdoors, and is privately funded by a growing number of sponsors.
On the way to the Capitol, it is traveling 3,000 miles and visiting communities like Independence, MO, where it stopped on Nov. 17. Staff members of OOIDA, Land Line Magazine and their families got the opportunity to share the tradition and sign the canvas side of the trailer hauling the tree.
For two truck drivers, it’s an opportunity to participate in an iconic gift to the nation. The big tree and some companion trees are being moved by two Pinnacle trucks provided by Mack Trucks and driven by two drivers: OOIDA Life Member Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a former U.S. Senator who hails from Colorado, and Duane Brusseau, a professional driver from California.
Both drivers have experience moving the Capitol Christmas Tree. They know it’s a journey that requires some seriously long hours on the road.
“Our job is to move efficiently and keep this tree alive and healthy. It’s got to arrive in good shape,” Campbell said during the stop in Independence. He watched the local fire department hoses filling the giant bladder that keeps the tree watered. “It’s still very much alive; in fact, it drinks about 30 gallons a day.”
Campbell said the original plan included more stops in communities and military bases.
“But the forestry service didn’t think the tree could do 41 stops, so they cut it back,” said Campbell.
The lighting of the tree is planned for Dec. 4, after which it will be the holiday centerpiece of the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol, with thousands of lights and handmade ornaments.
The Engelmann spruce was harvested Nov. 2 from the White River National Forest near Meeker, CO. The tree stands 73 feet. It is thought to be 74 years old. LL