Merry Christmas from The Smokey Wire

Members of the Colorado delegation watch as the lights are turned on the Capitol Christmas tree. “I thank the Colorado delegation and the people of Colorado for blessing our Capitol’s Christmas celebration with this magnificent Engelmann Spruse from the GMUG Forest,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Crowds greeted the Capitol Christmas Tree when it made a stop in Paonia.

I’d like to highlight this Colorado Public Radio story about the Capitol Christmas Tree which in 2020 is from the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre Gunnison (known as the GMUG) in western Colorado.

People’s attachment to the tree doesn’t at all surprise former Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. The last two times the Capitol Christmas Tree came from his state, in 2000 and 2012, he was the one who drove it all the way to Washington.

“It’s quite an adventure,” Nighthorse Campbell said. When he first volunteered, he was the only senator with a commercial driver’s license.

Decades before, he drove trucks to pay for college, but he said it was still a challenge to navigate the small mountain roads and back up the giant vehicle “all the time.”

For the trip, everything was donated, from his own time to the fuel. On his first chauffeuring trip, the Forest Service even gave him and his crew fresh roadkill to grill, which he thought was delicious.

“How often can you eat elk steaks every night?” he recalled, with a laugh.

The thing that really sticks with Nighthorse Campbell were the crowds, and not just in the towns. Sometimes, far between communities, flocks of people were waiting, eager to get a glimpse of the tree.

“There would be 15 or 20 cars with a whole bunch of kids standing by the crossroads,” he said fondly.

For the GMUG Forest Service employees with the job of keeping the tree healthy during the trip to Washington, D.C., seeing people wave from highway overpasses was one of the highlights of the trip.

“Everything this nation has gone through in the last nine months, I think people are just looking for some positive things. And I think they came out and really wanted to enjoy the tree,” said Forest Service employee Clay Speas.

Thank you to the GMUG folks and a Merry Christmas to all!

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