Iliene Hatch watches the soaring Sitka spruce in her yard surrender to the final spurt from the chain saw and her emotions, as the saw’s two-cycle chatter goes silent, are mixed.
“I’m going to miss it, actually,” Hatch said. “It’s going to look so naked out here without that tree.”
But Hatch is also happy to think about how many people will enjoy the sight of her tree, its branches loaded with Christmas lights, when they visit downtown Baker City during the holidays.
She’s thinking especially of youngsters and their unique amazement at the sights of the season.
“Little kids love big Christmas trees,” said Hatch, who donated the approximately 40-foot spruce as Baker City’s Community Christmas Tree.
The tree, now standing in its customary spot in the Court Avenue Plaza between Main and Resort streets, will be illuminated after the Christmas parade on Saturday, Dec. 7.
“I think that is an absolutely amazing thing to happen,” Hatch said. “I offered the tree as a community gesture.”
When she learned recently that officials from the city and Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative had picked her spruce, Hatch said she was ecstatic.
“I did the happy dance and clapped my hands,” she said.
OTEC donated employees’ time and the use of its trucks and other equipment to cut the spruce Saturday morning and haul it from Hatch’s home at Cliff and Grove streets.
Hatch, who grew up in John Day and moved to Baker City in August, said she only learned by happenstance about the Community Christmas Tree program, which dates to the 1990s.
Hatch, 67, whose mother, Delores (Martin) Stull was born in Baker City in 1928, said she initially called OTEC because she was concerned that the spruce might pose a threat to nearby power lines.
(Delores, who’s 90, lives at Klamath Falls.)
Hatch said OTEC officials told her the tree was fine.
But they also alerted her to the Community Christmas Tree program, in which residents offer a tree.
Hatch, who said the spruce’s roots had buckled sections of the concrete driveway that leads to her carport, was intrigued.
She decided the tree was too tall for her 100-foot by 100-foot lot — particularly since the property also boasts a blue spruce of similar proportions.
Hatch did have one condition for her donation — she asked OTEC to leave a stump of 12 to 14 feet high.
That will serve as the foundation for a treehouse that Hatch and her husband, Bill, plan to build this spring for granddaughters Kori, 7, and her sister, Charlie, 13, who live in John Day.
“I have all winter to design it,” Hatch said of the treehouse.
She said she spoke with her daughter-in-law Sunday morning to let her granddaughters know when the tree-lighting would happen so they can attend and enjoy the tree that used to stand where their treehouse will be built.
Hatch, who lived at Kuna, Idaho, for 31 years, said she’s pleased to be back in her native Eastern Oregon.
Although she grew up in John Day she visited Baker City often, as her aunt and uncle owned a ranch at Weatherby.
Hatch vividly remembers stopping in Baker City to buy a bag of warm cashews.