More North State Christmas lore. If you haven't driven north on I-5 around Christmastime, you wouldn't know about this tree. It's located about 50 yards east of the freeway, near the rest stop halfway between Red Bluff and Cottonwood, about 25 miles south of Redding.
You've probably driven by this Christmas tree just north of Red Bluff heading north on Interstate 5 and wondered about it. I did, and I set out on a search to find why that Charlie Brown kind of tree was always decorated at Christmas time and who was doing it. It's known as Carrie’s Christmas tree and its located north of Red Bluff on Interstate 5 just before we approach the roadside rest area. It stands there all by itself all decked out with bright-colored Christmas tree decorations.
The story of that tree is interesting enough to be told and retold. Years ago in the early 1960s when major reconstruction work began to get underway on that section of the highway, Cottonwood resident and lover of trees Carrie Bogue asked the road officials if she could dig up the tree and move it out of harm’s way. She was denied her simple request.
Work on the highway continued and somehow her tree managed to remain standing through the reconstruction work. However, a few years later, it died. And then, in 1966, a few years after the tree died, Carrie died. She was 93 years old.
Carrie had many friends. Among them were Ruth and Cary Chadwick of Anderson who had been friends of Carrie’s for at least 40 years. They knew the story of Carrie and her tree, and one day as they were driving by the “dead” tree, they noticed it had miraculously come back to life! And of course they thought it was Carrie, now in the form of a tree.
The Chadwick’s knew Carrie well. Carrie had told them, and others, that if she could come back to life after death, she wanted to come back as a tree. And so, according to the Chadwick’s, and to everyone else who knew Carrie well, there she was, alive again, this time as a tree, just as she wished.
That Christmas season, in 1967, the Chadwick’s decorated Carrie’s tree. They covered the tree with bright garlands, tinsels and bows for everyone to see as they passed by on the highway that had now become a freeway.
Over the years, the tree grew larger and taller making it more difficult for the Chadwick’s to decorate. They continued decorating her tree for at least twenty more years until their old ages and poor health began getting in the way. In approximately 1990, their friends Dale and Larry McClure, also of Cottonwood, began helping them out. A few years later, the McClure’s became the lone decorators of Carrie’s tree.
It is not an easy task to decorate the tree because it is no ordinary tree. It is full of spiked barbs approximately two inches long. It has wide limbs and branches that are gnarly and twisted. It's as far from being a Christmas tree as a manzanita bush.
But Carrie saw beyond all the unfriendly and not-so-pretty parts of the tree enough to try and save it. What better way to show it off now that it's Christmas time for all to enjoy.
I drove by it last night and it was hard to tell if it has been decorated. If it's not, I'm sure it will be soon. Please share this story so the story of Carrie's tree will live on! Merry Christmas everyone!