Truckin' the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree

By Land Line staff | 11/19/2012

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.

Photo Credit: Nikohle Ellis

OOIDA Executive VP Todd Spencer, left; U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree driver Duane Brusseau, center; and OOIDA Life Member and former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, left. Brusseau and Campbell are the two truck drivers moving the tree to the Capitol.

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 41-year veteran truck driver from San Jose, CA.

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.

After the event on the Independence square, the tree convoy was scheduled to be back on the road and on the way to St. Louis, then Nashville on Monday, Nov. 19. In the Music City, Lindsay Lawler will be part of the event. The official song of the 2012 Capitol Tree, “Standing Tall” is co-written and performed by Lawler, a country western artist whose trucking songs have made her a name familiar to trucking.

The plan is to get to DC on Nov. 26.

The lighting of the tree is planned for Dec. 4, after which the 2012 Christmas tree will be the holiday centerpiece of the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol, with thousands of lights and handmade ornaments.

This year will be the third time that the state of Colorado has provided the tree. The Engelmann spruce was harvested Nov. 2 on the Blanco Ranger District of the White River National Forest near Meeker, CO.

The diameter of the tree is 28 inches, and it stands 73 feet. It is thought to be 74 years old.

Editor’s note: Land Line’s field editor, Suzanne Stempinski, will be on assignment at the end of November following the last leg of the tree’s journey into Washington, DC. She’ll ride in the truck with Ben Nighthorse Campbell from Allentown, PA, to Andrews AFB near DC. In the predawn hours of Nov. 26, she’ll be in one of the trailing vehicles as the tree makes its final journey to the Capitol building lawn. Watch for her photos and on-the-scene coverage.

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