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By JEFF MARTIN

I remember the first tree I cut down for Christmas purposes.

It was out in Kansas, smack-dab in the center of this grand country. Aside from the fact that I was shocked any trees even grew in the state of Kansas, I was floored that there were so many scattered across the farm. I donít remember the name of the place, but I do remember the kindness of the owners. We bought a Douglas fir, if memory serves me correctly, and it had a joyous smell ó it looked pretty darn nice, too.

When I moved to western New York, I was overjoyed that I had moved to pine tree central, home of some of the most beautiful specimens on the planet. Most people I know here, ridiculously enough, have artificial trees. Itís like people who live in Hershey, Pa., eating Aldi brand chocolate.

I interviewed Butch Hill at Hillís Christmas Tree Farm, 13214 Belscher Rd., in Springville, for a news article. I remember pulling up to his shed and seeing this man as big as a redwood trunk standing in the drive with a wrench in his hand. It was midday, early season, and business was just starting to jump.

There are about 24,000 trees growing on the property, according to Hill. The most popular ó Balsam fir, Canaan fir, Concolor fir, Douglas fir, and Grand fir, and blue and white spruce trees ó are available for cutting, but the Canaan fir has proven to be the most popular.

When I first saw it, I had no idea what it was. I remember Butch noticing that I was noticing the tree, and thatís when he started telling me about the specimen.

Discovered by an Ohio State University professor in a West Virginia valley, this tree has a wide, straight shape and shows a variety of colors. Its scent is strong, but not so strong that it overpowers a room.

The Hills began planting Canaan trees in 1998 and started selling them about eight years later. Itís become one of his most popular trees.

I tell you this, dear readers, because, if you donít already know, you ó we live in an area that doubles as Santa Clausís home away from home, his Rio, his Caribbean, his Mexico, his lawn chair in the sand.

The variety of tree farms in Western New York is impressive ó not only in Springville, an area that I should tell you I will be writing about in this paper with more frequency henceforth, but also in the Ellicottville area. Over in West Valley, for instance, thereís McHugh Trees, another place Iíve heard good things about.

And should you decide to cut a live tree, follow these tips. First, donít just pull the car over to the side of the road, pull out the hacksaw and start hiking through the forest. Not only do you risk getting shot, itís illegal. Find a tree farm.

You should also go early and not wait until some goofball columnist tells you to go. Youíll get a better offering of trees. In most cases, tree farms lend you tools to cut the tree down, but bring a hacksaw just in case. And donít be a dork and bring a chainsaw or axe.

Once you find your tree, cut it close to the ground so that your second cut allows the tree to soak up water at home. Once you do get it home, shake it off in the driveway to free loose needles. Put it in a stand full of water and, for the treeís sake, lower the room temperature to about 65 degrees so it can get accustomed to its new home.

And then enjoy. Thereís nothing quite like a live tree. I used to be against the practice, but Iíve since changed my mind. Trees, like people, love company during the holidays.

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