December 8th, 2011
For as long as I can remember, which on some occasions may be only as far back as last Tuesday, there is a large Juniper tree on Arizona Interstate 17 that would be decorated after every Thanksgiving Day by the unknown - people, aliens, elves, squirrels, who knows. As a kid, this was one of my favorite attractions on the road to and from northern Arizona as we drove to Sedona and Prescott for family vacations. Even in the summer after all the decorations would be removed, I still looked for the decorated Juniper tree. Sometimes it was decorated in toilet paper or plastic bags but that was just not quite the same - nothing brings out the warm and fuzzy like a bunch of gold balls (just stop - you know what I mean).
For the past 30 or more years, persons of unknown identities have been decorating the 15ft Juniper tree that grows on the center medium near milepost 254. Reporters have tried to catch the cheery perps in the act but to no avail. Some say it is the Arizona Highway Patrol and others believe the Department of Transportation may be involved - all have denied of course. Or maybe the tree is some flashy Christmas miracle. A retired ADOT engineer has admitted to knowing some of the culprits but will not divulge any identities. In August of this year, a large brush fire threatened the life of the tree, yet the fire only singed the trunk and some lower branches, giving it the new name "Miracle Christmas Tree." Speculation arose that the first responders to the fire saved the tree, but Glenn Brown, Mayer, AZ fire chief denies this to be the case. Actually, the canopy of the one-seeded Juniper doesn't allow much undergrowth near the tree, thus eliminating much needed fuel for the fire. But, miracles are fun to believe in this time of year. Unfortunately, last I heard that this tree has yet to be adorned in its annual decor so hopefully someone gets out there quick (but it is illegal to cross a freeway on foot or stop on the freeway - making the idea of going out with a couple boxes of shiny balls even more enticing.