Ethical Dilemmas in the Woods


My son and I went Christmas tree hunting on Saturday. Hunting may be an overstatement since the trees aren’t hard to find and they don’t run away when hunters approach, but it’s the closest my son and I get to stalking wild game. We are not “outdoorsy.” While our predatory skills were not challenged, we were confronted with a genuine test of our turpitude. We visited a u-cut facility Christmas tree farm to search for our quarry. After parking the pickup, we grabbed a saw from the front porch of the office and set off into the well-manicured woods to find the perfect noble fir tree. We spent a half hour sizing up the trees according to the factors of height, width, plumb, color, apparent health, and fullness. Finally, my son decided which tree was right for us, and I went to work sawing it down.

When the tree was felled, I assessed the relative distance from where it lay compared to the location of my truck and decided it was too far to drag. In true American fashion, I opted to drive my truck into the woods to load up our trophy rather than exert myself physically by hauling the tree to the parking lot. After loading the tree in the bed, we drove back to the office to pay up. I presented my credit card to the cashier, but she told me it was cash or check only. I was unprepared for this possibility, so I asked what I should do. She told me there was an ATM at a nearby convenience store. I was relieved there was a solution at hand, but it occurred to me we still had a problem. I asked if it was o.k. that I was driving away with the tree in my truck. She said it was fine. She could have asked me to unload the tree or, possibly, to leave my son there as a form of collateral, but she trusted that I would do the right thing.

As we drove to the convenience store, my son and I discussed the situation. It would be easy to drive home with the tree without paying. They were naively trusting us and had not made any effort to hold us to our commitment. They didn’t write down my license plate or ask for a phone number. Rubes. I was also frustrated by the possibility that the ATM would charge an exorbitant processing fee. I had traveled to this tree farm in part because of the low cost of their trees, so I was none too pleased with the possibility of forking over more money just to get cash out of a machine. Grr. I told my son that sometimes I wish I wasn’t a decent human being as it would be a lot less expensive.

Of course, we returned to the tree farm with cash in hand. When we walked in the office, we were greeted with some exultation by the staff. I got the impression they believed it was a 50-50 proposition whether we would return to settle our debt. I smiled broadly realizing that while these “rubes” were still hopeful that people are basically good, they were sophisticated enough to realize that a lot of people aren’t so good. On the drive home, I chuckled at the idea that stealing a Christmas tree would have pretty much guaranteed that my son and I would have ended up on Santa’s “Naughty List.”

I’m giving myself an early Christmas present tomorrow night. I’m going to see Exodus perform at a small club in Seattle. They are arguably the original thrash metal band and have recently released a great album of new music. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get a chance to meet Gary Holt, lead guitarist and songwriter for Exodus. Holt – who I have blogged about before – is one of the founding fathers of thrash, and I would love to shake his hand and thank him for thirty years of great music.


3 thoughts on “Ethical Dilemmas in the Woods

  1. “I smiled broadly realizing that while these “rubes” were still hopeful that people are basically good, they were sophisticated enough to realize that a lot of people aren’t so good. ”

    That was a nice line!

    And yeah, you certainly would have attained the naughty list status if you had gone the other way! That was funny. A pleasant read, Todd, and of course you worked thrash metal into it!

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