Oh, Christmas Tree

Posted: November 1, 2021 at 8:52 am

For the Wards, cutting and selling Christmas trees is a decades-old family tradition

Story By Dianna Troyer

Picking the perfect Christmas tree is a pleasure that cannot be rushed. It takes time to find one that’s just right—not too plump or too skinny, nor too tall or too short.

For decades, Base Ward of Almo has understood this holiday quest. Every November, he treks into the national forest near his home and cuts hundreds of trees of all shapes and sizes to satisfy his loyal customers’ diverse preferences.

Base Ward has been cutting Christmas trees since childhood to sell. His dad started the family tradition. PHOTOS BY DIANNA TROYER
Base Ward has been cutting Christmas trees since childhood to sell. His dad started the family tradition. PHOTO BY DIANNA TROYER

“I always cut some as short as 2 feet and up to about 19 feet,” Base says. “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.”

In mid-November, Base hauls most of the trees 115 miles to Logan, Utah, where he and his wife, Tammy, and their children and grandchildren have been selling them since 2001 on the lawn of the historic Baugh Motel on Main Street.

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

Tammy says they look forward to seeing loyal customers.

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

After unloading the trees in Logan, Base and his son, Josh, stand them up in rows, string colorful lights, put up the Ward Christmas Trees sign, 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,” Base says. “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.”

Base depends on his children and grandchildren to help. During the opening weekend in November, son Josh and his wife, Dayle; and daughter Cami and her husband, BJ Crystal, take care of customers.

“While they’re doing that, it gives me a chance to deliver fresh trees to Valleywide Co-op in Rupert and Jerome.”

In early December, he relies on his other sons and their spouses: Jory and Sherry Ward of Wellsville, Utah; and Kade and Jessica Ward of Spanish Fork, Utah.

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

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

“I’ve cut trees ever since I can remember, starting when I was a kid to help my dad,” says Base, 60.

He buys a permit from the U.S. Forest Service every year and cuts about 250 subalpine 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.

Base, 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,” Base says.

Before he hauls the trees to Utah, his grandchildren pick trees for themselves. Their neighbors, Bill and Analee Jones, choose one, too.

Base’s granddaughters get first pick of trees. POTO COURTESY OF BASE WARD
Base’s granddaughters get first pick of trees. POTO COURTESY OF BASE WARD

“He always manages to find perfectly shaped symmetrical trees,” Analee says. “We’ve been buying a tree from him for years.”

Then Tammy takes her turn.

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

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.

Base launched his family’s annual Christmas tree trek to Utah in 1992. They sold trees in Garland because it was a chance for Tammy to visit relatives who still live near her hometown of Hyde Park.

“We lost one location due to new business construction, so a longtime customer suggested the motel,” Base says. “It’s a perfect location.”

Base says selling Christmas trees complements his full-time job as a fencing contractor.

“Late fall and December is my offseason with fencing, so it works out well,” he says.

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

During the years when he has leftover trees, what does he do with them?

“An elk rancher feeds them to his herd,” Base says.

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

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