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Needles and pines

In the little forest without roots, the evergreens bunched together to keep each other from falling. But make no mistake, the Christmas tree lot at St.

In the little forest without roots, the evergreens bunched together to keep each other from falling.

But make no mistake, the Christmas tree lot at St. Joseph Church in Moorhead was the scene of a competition Saturday.

As snowflakes quietly settled on boughs and needles, you could almost hear the pines and spruce whispering:

"Over here."

"Pick me."


"No, pick me."

One tree, looking disheveled with chunks of snow and ice clogging its branches, remained silent as Charlie Hovde looked it over.

"I like the odd ones," said Hovde, who, after deciding the evergreen was "Charlie Brown" enough for her, asked her husband, Peter, to load it on the car.

The tree was destined for the Hovdes' yard, where it will be adorned with strings of white lights.

The family has several reasons for keeping a Christmas tree outside.

"You get Mother Nature interacting with the snowfalls. It looks pretty magical some mornings. Plus, no needles in the house," Charlie Hovde said.

The parking lot of St. Joseph offered evergreens of many shapes and sizes, but many people shopping Saturday chose trees that were on the smallish side, with short needles rather than long.

It's easy to miscalculate how well a Christmas tree will fit a given space, said Jennifer Stenberg, whose family buys at the lot every year.


"Last year, we got one here and it turned out to be just enormous. We opened it up and we were like, 'Oh, no,' '' she said.

This year, Stenberg and her husband, Brock, bought two trees, one for each floor of their Moorhead home.

Bryant, the couple's 4-year-old son, said the upstairs tree will be his.

Proceeds from the tree sales go to support St. Joseph School and help keep tuition costs down, Principal Valerie Ritland said.

She said each year, about 40 families volunteer at the lot, with individuals putting in two-hour shifts.

Mark Johnson, who spent part of Saturday afternoon tying trees to the roofs of SUVs, said there's no sales pitch when it comes to moving Christmas trees.

"It's either it, or it isn't. Everybody's looking for something different," Johnson said.

Angela McGaugh and her fiance, Brad Schutt, picked out twin trees for their respective apartments, but there was some debate on the best way to get them home.


"Don't you think it will hurt the tree to drag it all the way?" Angela McGaugh said, referring to the two-block distance to their apartments. "It's ice the whole way," Schutt said.

"I guess we're dragging 'em," McGaugh said.

It was the first real Christmas tree for Schutt but not McGaugh, who said she grew up with the genuine article.

"When we get married, it will be real trees all the time. They smell so good," she said.

Celine Hein, a student at Concordia College, was shopping for her first real Christmas tree with her grandfather, Keith Hein, of Montevideo, Minn., who planned to buy the tree as a gift.

"Do you want one with short needles, or long ones?" the elder Hein asked.

"I don't know," the younger Hein answered.

Minutes later, she settled on short needles and Johnson quickly readied the tree for her by sawing off the bottom, which makes it easier for the tree to absorb water.


"These trees are fresh, it will get you through Christmas," said Johnson, who is in his second year as a volunteer at the tree lot.

He said it doesn't seem like work.

"When you're selling Christmas trees, you get in the Christmas spirit in a hurry," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com.
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