Published October 15, 2007 by
The year was 1918 when two young men hauled three loads of wheat into Brooks and then went shopping to purchase their Christmas supplies. At that time Brooks had a population of about 200 and two stores, both of which sold only practical merchandise. The farm population between Brooks and the Bow River, 30 miles south, consisted of only eight people.One of the young men had a wife and three children at home so he went looking for a Christmas tree. Since he and his family came from Minnesota, where there was a surplus of these trees, he was perplexed and upset when he could not find one. Eventually, he went to the CPR office to complain about the difficulty he was having trying to find a Christmas tree on the barren prairie, and to point out that he could not celebrate Christmas properly without one. In short, he accused the CPR of not looking after its settlers properly.The next morning the two men got up at 4:30, fed and harnessed their horses, ate a cold breakfast and started off for home without the coveted tree. Since it was a very cold morning, they walked beside their wagon to keep warm.About half way home, the man who had been looking for the tree jumped up on his wagon; then jumped off again just as quickly, shouting to his friend, "Why did you do it? Why did you do it?" The friend, not knowing what had happened, looked into the wagon and there on the bottom laid a beautiful four-foot green spruce.Proudly the father took the tree home to his family. But the reception the tree received from his wife and children was disconcerting, to say the least.
They did not want it!
While he was away they had gathered a big bunch of Russian thistle, or tumble weed, placed it in the corner of their two-room home and decorated it with Christmas ornaments brought from Minnesota. So pleased were they with their novel decoration that they did not want a real tree. From then on, until local Christmas trees became readily available, the wives of all new settlers used gaily decorated Russian thistles for their Christmas trees.
But what of the Christmas tree that was lying on the bottom of the wagon? How did it get there? Several years after the incident, it was discovered that Augustus Griffin, the CPR's district engineer, had quietly cut down one of the hundreds of trees he had planted and placed it in the wagon of the young father from Minnesota.
J. A. Hawkinson was the father of the three children, and Carl Anderson was the other driver.