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My daughter started to cry after our newly purchased Christmas tree rolled off the top of my SUV like a dead body. This little emergency set the stage to demonstrate that special magic conjured by the regular folks of Northern Michigan.
Dad, or grandpa to my daughter, planned to meet us at Kolarik’s tree farm just south of Omena on Kolarik Rd. (There’s a nice synchronicity in roads being named after the people who live there.) I put on my snow pants and we carefully made our way on snowy roads, smiling as another SUV passed us going the opposite direction, topped with it’s own tree. We’d looked through all the trees, reaching up to judge their height, checking the prickly factor and watching as they put chosen trees on the shaker to get all the snow and loose needles off, then into the netting machine. We posed for pictures. Dad headed north to run errands. My daughter and I headed south towards home to drop off the tree before rehearsal of the church Christmas pageant.
I don’t know how we made it as far as we did. We heard a scrape, and then light came unexpectedly flooding through the sunroof as the tree bounced off to the side of the road in the rearview mirror.
“What will we do!” cried my daughter, exhausted from a sleepover.
“We’ll solve the problem,” I answered. And added, “You need a nap.”
“I know,” she admitted.
We circled round and I did my best to drag the tree across the road. It was heavy. The netting tore when I used it as a handle. I knew I couldn’t lift it up on top of the truck. And there weren’t any torn ties … I was beginning to understand that it had never been tied to the truck in the first place.
Cell phone! I looked up Kolarik listings on Kolarik Rd. There were several but only one with a listed phone number. This bit is important: I called the wrong Kolarik. My misdirected message included our predicament, location and a description of my truck.
After hanging up, I was pretty sure that my message would go unheard for several hours. The entire Kolarik family must have been on that lawn supporting the Christmas tree business. I figured the better plan might be to leave the tree safely on the side of the road and get help.
When I pulled into the Kolarik drive, I noted another truck pulled in behind me. But it already had a tree in the back? Huh? As I walked toward the Kolarik family to tell my sad tree-story, that truck pulled out. The family explained that for liability sake, they don’t actually tie the trees onto the cars (unless you're really in a pickle). They do provide twine. Makes sense. A very tall Kolarik, in worn Carhartt's and one of those shearling hats with the ear covers that hang down, pulled several yards of twine off the roll and made ready to follow me to my wayward tree, just as that odd truck pulled back in the driveway, now with two trees in the back.
The wrong Kolarik was driving that truck. He’d heard my message and set out in the cold to help the stranger on his answering machine. When he recognized my truck in the farm drive, he figured out who I was and went to fetch my lost tree. And the wrong Kolarik, aided by a bevy of the Christmas-tree Kolariks broke the rules, lifted my tree and tied it securely to the top of my truck.
It was bitter cold that Saturday, not 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Just another day when people from Northern Michigan go out of their way to help someone with an escaped Christmas tree. Magic.