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Gotta go, congressman: I have a Christmas tree to pose for the comptroller

Mary & Christmas Tree

When Dusty Johnson called earlier this afternoon, I was standing outside the closed gate of the Club for Boys Christmas tree lot here in Rapid City considering the few remaining trees up for sale and waiting for the comptroller to arrive.

Not of the Boys Club. Of our house.

I was scheduled to meet Mary there so we could purchase a small tree to be placed and decorated sometime late tomorrow afternoon, a Christmas Eve tradition.

Well, it’s the tradition we prefer but had to suspend for a few years under pressure from one grandchild or another. Understandably enough, they had trouble waiting for Christmas Eve to see our tree, which sometimes sheltered a few presents.

This year, we decided to indulge ourselves and go back to what we prefer. We did place a lighted, decorated tree on our deck a few weeks back, as a compromise.

But the real Christmas tree? It goes up on Christmas Eve and stays up until at least the Epiphany of Our Lord on Jan. 6, which is the real Christmas season, to us, coming as it does after the real Advent. Which is, to us, all part of the real reason for the season.

But back to the phone call from Johnson, whom I recognized on caller ID.

“Congressman,” I said. “How are you today?”

“Hey, Woster,” he said. “I’m just calling to see what’s going on, and to wish you a Merry Christmas.”

That’s kind of a big deal, of course, when your state’s only member of the U.S. House of Representatives calls out of the blue — or, actually, today it was partly cloudy. . And I was treating it as a big deal, even as I surveyed a dozen trees of various types and sizes which, when the lot closed, were left outside the gate with price tags and envelopes for mail-in payment.

Johnson was calling from 41st Street in Sioux Falls, and we discussed the amazing growth of the city over the last 16 or 20 years. And the growth to come.

Then Mary showed up, which is a bigger deal than the growth of Sioux Falls or even a call from your congressman. To me, at least.

And she was all business as she got out of the car.

“Oh, I like that one! What did you mean they didn’t have a little one? That one is perfect,” Mary said as she hustled over to the targeted tree. “Here, hold it up so I can see how it looks.”

As I tried to converse with Johnson, Mary leaned the 5-footer with a marked-down price of $35 against my leg.

“Come on, hold it up,” she insisted.

“OK, but wait, “ I said. “You know you’re interrupting my conversations with our congressman to make me pose a tree, right?

She did seem to know that, and she seemed comfortable with it.

“Oh, that’s Dusty?” she said, then raised her voice to call toward my phone as I turned it away from my face and toward her: “Hi Dusty! Merry Christmas.”

Then back to me: “Come on, hold the tree.”

I was trying to pose the tree with one hand and hold the cell phone with the other when Johnson jumped in to help: “Tell Mary, Merry Christmas, Woster.,” he said. “But you better go.”

Smart man, and not just on policy. He knows that home comptrollers outrank congressman any day. But especially when there’s a Christmas-tree deal in the works.

So I hung up and we bought the 5-footer, along with the last remaining evergreen wreath for $20. And Mary went back to work happy.

I’ll get back to Johnson after Christmas.

Or maybe after we finally take down that tree.

Click here to access the archive of Woster's past work for SDPB.