There has been a Tom’s Trees Christmas tree lot for at least 50 years – that’s longer than the current Tom (or Tommy) is old.
It started with the late Tom Franklin and his wife Rose, Tommy’s parents. They moved to Muscoda in 1968, after they had been selling Christmas trees while living in Madison. Their son took over the Christmas tree business in 1989.
The Tom’s Trees lots have been at several locations in Muscoda throughout the years as well as at locations in Blue River and Gotham. But the goal has remained the same, to provide fresh trees that merit a place of honor in area homes. Currently the lot is adjacent to North Wisconsin Avenue in conjunction with Tom’s Repair.
Presently the trees stocked are a choice of white pine, balsam and Fraser Fir. The latter two are short-needle trees. Tom says the Fraser Firs are currently a popular tree. When the elder Tom was selling trees Scotch Pines were in vogue, but they seem to have faded from the scene. The trees come from Southwest Wisconsin Christmas tree plantations, one in the Rolling Ground area and other in northern Richland County, owned by Rudy Nigl, a long-time county forester.
Tom has involvement with the trees other than selling them. He works at the plantations during the period when the trees are sheared in June each year as they grow. He says he can shear a tree with a knife in each hand, a knack that not everyone has. Crucial to the shearing job is shaping the top of the tree so people have proper support for their angel, star or other special decoration.
Depending on the growing seasons, Tom estimates many of the trees on his lot are in the 12-years-of-age range.
A newly acquired innovation at the tree lot this year is a baler that wraps the desired tree with a netting, making it easy to transport on the top of a car or in the back of a pick-up.
Also on the property is an old-time Christmas tree baler. Tom doesn’t know the age of that hand-powered rather simple unit, but he knows it’s very old. He has memories of that baler going along to northern Wisconsin to bale trees to bring home to sell. He notes that during those years, more than one kid ended up in that crude machine – baled with twine.
Like everything else, Christmas tree prices have changed with the years. After selling the trees for $25 each for the past six years. Tom found it necessary to raise his price to $30 for 2015.