Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rearview: On the trail of the Capitol Christmas Tree

Editor’s note: We’re looking “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line’s 40-year-history. This week we bring you a 2012 story by Editor-in-Chief Sandi Soendker about the Capitol Christmas Tree’s stop in her hometown of Independence. Find out about the details about this year’s Capitol Tree with our coverage here.

So I am on assignment Saturday night in my hometown of Independence, Mo., on the town square for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree whistlestop event, on the tree’s way to D.C. The drivers of the Mack trucks pulling the Christmas tree really wanted to see the Truman Home.
Land Line Editor-in-Chief Sandi Soendker
and U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree drivers,
OOIDA Life Member and former U.S. Sen.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (left), and Duane
Brusseau (right) at the Truman Home in 2012

Independence is my hometown, and I live there still. I knew it was too far for a quick walk, so I thumbed at my car, parked just across the street. They accepted, and I drove them to a place I know well.

The big white home at 219 Delaware St. is timeless and unpretentious yet elegant. It’s kept spotless and looks like Harry and Bess just walked out. It’s tended to and guarded by the National Park Service. It was about 4 p.m., the gates were locked, and the park rangers were closing for the day. We parked and got out anyway.

Me to the rangers: “Locked? Oh man. Can’t you make an exception? These guys are the drivers of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree; they are parked up on the square for tonight’s event.”

We asked if we could just get a photo of them on the porch.

Ranger looks at the truck drivers: “Sorry.”

Me to rangers: “Would it make a difference if I said this guy is a former United States Senator?”

I wasn’t bluffing; he really was. He also happens to be an OOIDA Life Member, CDL holder and, on this U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree journey, one of the two truck drivers.

Ranger looks at the guy, kinda checks out his faded jeans and long thick gray hair, pulled through the back of his Mack Truck cap.

Ranger: “Sorry.”

The driver hesitates to play this card, but says: “I do have a permanent U.S. Senate ID …”

He goes through his wallet and produces the ID. The ranger looks at it and decides to talk to the other ranger. He comes back shortly.

Ranger: “Let me see that ID again.”

The driver has already put it away, so he gets his wallet out again and shuffles through his collections of laminated IDs.

Driver: “I know it’s here, I just put it away … here it is … OH WAIT, that’s my Walmart card …”

Finally he found it, and the rangers were convinced that he was really Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

We got a personal tour of the house. We even got to go in through the back door, just the way celebrities and former presidents used to do.