Delivering 'The People's Tree'

By Suzanne Stempinski, Land Line contributing field editor | 11/29/2016

The truck rolled into the parking lot under the watchful eyes of the assembled crowd. “It’s here. … The tree is here,” could be heard in whispers and cheers. First the shiny grille of the Kenworth T680 and then the rest, culminating with the special Plexiglas window revealing the top 15 feet of the 80-foot Englemann spruce destined for the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Children and their parents, the young and youthful in spirit were eager to be part of the journey of “The People’s Tree.” The tree was harvested by hand in early November in the Payette National Forest outside McCall, Idaho, and made a roughly 4,000-mile trip to the Capitol, where the official lighting ceremony will be held on Dec. 6.

Photo by Glori Berkel

OOIDA member Gary Amoth navigates a specifically spec’d Kenworth T680 pulling the Capitol Christmas Tree into Union Station in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 19.

The 31-stop tour gave thousands the chance to be part of the process. It also created great educational opportunities for the U.S. Forest Service to talk about conservation and ecology. Every stop was different with many communities taking the opportunity to kick off their holiday celebrations.

On a bright chilly afternoon in Kansas City, Mo., OOIDA Member Gary Amoth arrived at Union Station and neatly maneuvered the 105-foot combo into place. He made it look easy and didn’t roll a curb or scuff a tire in the process, which was no easy feat given the layout of the parking lot. Behind him, was another Kenworth hauling a giant Idaho potato.

Amoth, a soft-spoken man in his mid-50s is the owner of Gary Amoth Trucking out of Twin Falls, Idaho. In 1983, he and a buddy went in on a truck together. They had a contract to haul sweet corn for Green Giant. After a couple of years, Amoth bought the other guy out, purchased another truck and kept increasing his business until he got to the roughly 130 truck operation he runs now.

Today, his trucks primarily haul building materials and overseas containers. “Hard work and perseverance are what drive me. And I believe that you treat your most important asset with respect – and that’s people. I can’t see myself doing anything else,” he said.

After the event in Kansas City, the crew settled in to their hotel to get ready for an early start the following day. Before 7 a.m., Amoth was wiping down his truck, making sure it looked its best for that day’s adventures. The next stop was approximately 120 miles away in Columbia, Mo. With its U.S. Forest Service escorts and the Idaho Potato truck following, the small parade made its way through the streets of Kansas City and out onto I-70, headed east. 

Land Line Now staff photo

Genie Scruton looks on as son Noah, 6, signs his name to the signs accompanying the Capitol Christmas Tree.

Spec’d specifically for the Christmas Tree haul, this Kenworth will become Amoth’s personal ride at the conclusion of the trip.

“I haven’t let anyone else drive it, and I don’t think I’m going to,” he explained. “I’ve gotten to like the AutoShift transmission with this Paccar MX-13 engine,” Amoth said. “One of the things that has really impressed me is how quiet the truck is when we’re going down the road. I’ll probably bring it to truck shows and parades when I have time.”

A warm welcome in Columbia was a great part of the trip. Each stop has a different setting, but everyone is genuinely thrilled to be part of history. The huge banners draping the sides of the trailer offer visitors the opportunity to sign their names or send a message of holiday cheer. At the end of the celebration in Columbia, the crew packed up and got ready to head out again – Saint Louis by nightfall, more to go.

On Monday, Nov. 28, the tree arrived at the U.S. Capitol lawn.

While he was honored to be asked to haul the Capitol Christmas Tree, Amoth knew it would change his focus for more than a month. After careful consideration and with the full support of his wife, Kathy and two daughters, he agreed. And the experience has exceeded his expectations. “I’ve been really fortunate. And the people I’ve met along the way have been exceptional. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Tune in Dec. 6 and watch as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan flips the switch illuminating the tree.

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