Base Ward Carries on Family Tree-Cutting Tradition

Base Ward cutting a tree.

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Montana Senior Olympics

By DIANNA TROYER

Base Ward understands the quest and unhurried pleasure of picking the perfect Christmas tree—one that’s just right and not too plump or too skinny or too tall or too short.

Every November since childhood, Ward, 60, has trekked into the national forest near his home in southeastern Idaho to cut hundreds of trees of all shapes and sizes, to satisfy his loyal customers’ diverse preferences. 

“I always cut some as short as 2 feet and up to about 19 feet,” said Ward, who lives in Almo near the Idaho/Utah border. “Most are 6 to 8 feet tall. The ones I think will sell quickly sometimes take a while, and others I don’t think are quite as nice sell fast. They’re all unique.”

Cutting and selling Christmas trees triggers happy holiday memories for Ward. His father, Thern, started the family tradition.

“I’ve cut trees ever since I can remember, starting when I was a kid to help Dad,” Ward said.

He buys a permit from the US Forest Service every year and cuts about 250 sub-alpine fir trees from Almo Park in the scenic mountains above his home. Private landowners also ask him to thin out about 100 pinyons on their land.

Ward, his son Brandon, and his brother Marv, who sells trees in Twin Falls, help each other cut their quotas. They work about three to four hours a day for six to seven days.

“It goes pretty quickly with all of us cutting,” Ward said. 

Before hauling the trees to a lot in Utah, he lets his grandchildren and wife, Tammy, have first dibs. 

“Last year, it was hard to decide, so we had four in our house,” Tammy said, laughing.

In mid-November, Ward hauls the trees 115 miles to Logan, Utah, and sells them from the lawn of the historic Baugh Motel on Main Street. He and Tammy have help from their children and grandchildren.

“We have a great time doing this every year, and it puts everyone—our family and our longtime customers—in a holiday mood,” Base said.

Tammy said they look forward to seeing loyal customers.

“People tell us they’re excited to see us come back every year,” she said. “They say our trees are the freshest cut, last the longest, and make their house smell wonderful.” 

After unloading the trees, the Wards stand them up in rows, string colorful lights, play holiday tunes, and wait for people to come. 

Last year, they didn’t wait long. “Almost as soon as they were set up, people started coming,” Ward said. “They came earlier than usual—the week before Thanksgiving. I think people were tired of sheltering at home because of COVID and wanted to get out and do something fun together.”

Weekend sales are brisk. “It’s crazy on weekends when we sell 50 to 60 trees a day,” Ward said. “During the week, it’s about six or seven trees a day. We couldn’t do it without our kids helping.”

To express the holiday spirit of giving, the Wards have a tradition of donating several trees to veterans at a low-income housing complex and some senior citizen centers. 

Ward said selling Christmas trees complements his full-time job as a fencing contractor.

“Late fall and December is my off-season with fencing, so it works out well,” he said.

Last year, by December 12, all the trees in Logan were sold. 

During the years when he has leftover trees, Ward doesn’t worry.

“An elk rancher feeds them to his herd,” he said. 

He also feeds them to his daughter’s appreciative goats in his backyard.

“Every year is a little bit different with selling trees,” Ward said. “Whatever happens, it’s all good and puts us in the Christmas spirit.” ISI

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