The Tree Salesman

There are customers at the tree lot tonight. A young family. The old man leaves his TV dinner to help them.

Trees everywhere. Big balsam firs. The old man who runs the Christmas tree lot is almost seventy-three. He keeps a small travel trailer, sixteen feet, with a television, a bed, and a microwave. When things are slow, he’s inside, eating his TV dinner.

He has a dog. The dog’s name is Brownie. He doesn’t even remember how he named this dog because Brownie is pure white.

“He pees all the time,” says the old man, poking a fork at his dinner. “Brownie loves to pee on people’s tires, I don’t know why.”

The old man is a friendly salesman. When customers look at his trees, he accompanies them and entertains. He has a little routine, complete with jokes, and hard candy for the kids. Sometimes horehounds, which is a candy I haven’t had in ages. My grandfather used to eat horehounds.

“I used to give out caramel chews,” the old man says, “But they’re expensive.”

Brownie runs all over, wandering between trees. He checks on people, and gets free rubdowns from anyone who will touch him.

“Yeah, he’s a little Cassanova,” says the man. “Never met a stranger, and never met a car tire he don’t wanna tee-tee on.”

The old man’s son helps manage the lot. But he and his son aren’t “super close,” as the man puts it. The old man admits that he walked out on his son and his family when his son was a little boy. Years later, they reunited, but it’s been slow going.

“When you screw up like I did,” says the man, “there’s no coming back from it. All you can do is try to be in your kid’s life, be a friend.”

There are customers at the tree lot tonight. A young family. The old man leaves his TV dinner to help them. They have two kids; a boy and a girl. The man does his usual routine, a joke or two, some candy. Mom and Dad settle on a tree, and the old man asks the kids for approval. They give the thumbs up.

He ties up the tree. He and his son strap the thing to the top of the family minivan. But the old man has a few more tricks up his sleeve.

Before they leave, he refunds the money back to Dad. Secretly. “Merry Christmas,” he whispers to the young man behind the wheel.

Dad is dumbfounded. He asks why the old man is doing this. Later, I ask the old man the same thing.

“Aw, I just had a feeling,” the old man tells me. “Sometimes I get these feelings.”

He gets a lot of feelings. He gives a lot of trees away. Sometimes to people who are well-off, sometimes to people who aren’t. Sometimes he even delivers them.

“One time,” he tells me, “When I was younger, this couple came around wanting a tree, they had a bunch of kids, I could tell they didn’t have a pot to piss in…” He stops. “I’m sorry, can I say that word in your article?”

One night, he delivered a tree to this family, free of charge. He also brought a truck full of toys and gifts for the kids.

“I pretty much just went to Kmart and bought everything, even stuff for the parents. I didn’t have the money to do it, I was broke, man, but I just couldn’t stand thinking those people couldn’t even afford a tree, and the kids wouldn’t get nothing.”

He says he felt bad afterward, not warm and fuzzy like he’d expected. He felt like he’d intruded, like he’d insulted their pride. The last thing he wanted to do was to embarrass hardworking parents on tough times.

“But I musta done the right thing,” he says.

Because the next day he had more business than he could stand. He had so many customers buy trees that he sold out. He made more money in a few hours than he expected to make all year.

“I couldn’t keep none of the cash,” he said. “It just felt wrong, like, you know, like it wasn’t meant to be spent on me.”

So he and gave all the profits to a local church, which he found in the phonebook. He gave anonymously because he likes it that way. Then he ordered more trees.

A few days later, he sold out again. This time, he made even more money than the last time.

“I was starting to get creeped out,” he said.

He got rid of the profits again. This time, he bought toys and he donated them to several needy families he’d heard about from a local organization.

“My son and I dropped the gifts off in the middle of the night. Left everything on needy people’s porches. We were crying all night long man. Intense, you know?”

We are interrupted again.

Another family is looking at trees. The children are inspecting the branches. He approaches them. He goes through his song and dance again. Dad is laughing. Mom is smiling. The children are happy.

And when he gives the kids candy, everyone’s faces light up like, well… Christmas trees.

They buy a tree. The old man straps the fir to the family Chevy. Before they leave, the old man leans toward the father in the driver’s seat. He gives the man his money back.

Dad looks like he’s shocked. He says, “What’s this for?”

“I do this sometimes,” the old man says. “It’s just my way of saying merry Christmas. Now get outta here.”

And in the true undying spirit of Christmas, before the family drives away into the night, call it a gesture of goodwill toward men, Brownie pees on the Chevy’s back tire.


  1. Cathi Russell - December 3, 2019 7:03 am

    No, I’m not crying, my eyes just got hot & sweaty. ❤❤❤❤❤

  2. Sharon Lawson - December 3, 2019 7:38 am

    Yes there are are good people in this world. Angels described as Christmas tree salesman.

  3. Sandi. - December 3, 2019 7:45 am

    What a heartwarming Christmas story. I agree with what Sharon just said in her comments. .

  4. sparkerlpc - December 3, 2019 9:46 am

    Sean, every time I think you can’t top the last story, here you come! This one is fantastic! Sharing it on my Facebook, like I do with most all your stories!’

  5. Steven Paul Bailey - December 3, 2019 10:43 am


  6. Elizabeth - December 3, 2019 11:24 am

    So, where can we go buy a Christmas tree from him, so he can do more good will? Dang! Is this true? Fantastic! Thank you again!

  7. Phil S. - December 3, 2019 12:17 pm

    Wow! This old man would like to give that old man something for Christmas; but he doesn’t need material things. He’s already got what he needs: Brownie, his son’s forgiveness, and the giving, loving Holy Spirit in his heart.

  8. Susan McCall - December 3, 2019 12:54 pm

    Truly precious. What a heart!

  9. Peg Begley - December 3, 2019 1:23 pm

    Thank you for sharing your talents, letting us see kindness, humanity through your eyes.

  10. Caleb Halstead - December 3, 2019 1:28 pm

    Now THAT’S a Christmas story!

  11. Donna - December 3, 2019 1:54 pm


  12. Shelton A. - December 3, 2019 2:46 pm

    Brownie…maybe that’s the color of his pee-pee. Great story of giving and living up to the true meaning of Christmas. Hope he kept enough for Brownie’s and his food. That’s not selfish-that’s survival. Great story…America needs so many more like the Tree Man.

  13. Pam S. - December 3, 2019 3:05 pm

    You know, sometimes blessings come in packages that aren’t wrapped up the way you’d expect. I figure Brownie was giving the only thing he had to give!

  14. Harriet - December 3, 2019 3:17 pm

    I agree with Elizabeth. I’d love to buy a tree from him. What a great story.

  15. Dianne - December 3, 2019 3:42 pm

    What a wonderful story, and what a wonderful man to give so generously to others. His generosity and giving spirit are not only given back to him twofold here on Earth, but will also be given back to him in Heaven. Thank you for sharing his story!

  16. Edna Barron - December 3, 2019 3:48 pm

    I loved today’s story. What an awesome old man! You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

  17. Susan Gregory - December 3, 2019 3:49 pm

    Sweet story ! Luv it!

  18. Linda Moon - December 3, 2019 4:33 pm

    Our family once had a Brownie dog. One day he just vanished into the woods. The old man is a generous “Secret Santa” with some Angel thrown in. There’s an Angel in you too, Sean, for seeing him for who he is….just a man who’s made mistakes and cares about other people…. and that pee-ing dog, Brownie!

  19. Tammy Moody - December 3, 2019 4:49 pm

    You can’t out give God!! <3

  20. Myra G. - December 3, 2019 5:27 pm

    Love this! Now, I’ve a craving for a horehound drop!

  21. Bobbie - December 3, 2019 5:37 pm

    The true meaning of Christmas ! God bless him! As scripture says, it’s more blessed to give than to receive…and it really is😊🎄

  22. Steve - December 3, 2019 5:41 pm

    One year we heard about a family whose house burned to the ground. They lost everything. My parents decided we would be Santa. My siblings and I were around 25ish. Mom got all the necessities; underwear, toothpaste, socks, etc. We each took a kid. I bought a PlayStation, and a Toolset for the father. We bought clothes, blue jeans, jackets, and wrapped everything up with a bow on top.

    In return, we gave up our Christmas. That was the deal we struck. We never met that family. Don’t know their names. I guess we got their clothing sizes from Church. That Christmas morning, with no presents of our own, we just sat around imagining the small moments of joy those young kids had, and the relief those parents had in the midst of their despair over the fire. I still think that was my best Christmas. The year we got bicycles would be a close second, but I was 4, and Santa still rode in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

  23. Ann - December 3, 2019 8:37 pm

    This is so refreshing….first…my husband and I have horehounds by our chairs…for special treats…..I love the spirit of this blog….beautiful!…even Brownie😂😂🎄

  24. Ala Red Clay Girl - December 3, 2019 9:03 pm

    Another great story about kindness!

  25. Connie Havard Ryland - December 4, 2019 12:57 am

    Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.

  26. Jody - December 4, 2019 1:01 am

    Blessings abound!!!!

  27. Marthajane Cassidey - December 4, 2019 5:31 am

    This column reminded me of the time when we were struggling financially and looking for a tree in an overgrown tree lot in Baldwin County. The tree lot owner was disabled and could not get out of his car. We found a tree, but the man refused to take our money. I guess he could tell we were broke. Never underestimate the kindness of strangers.

  28. Steve Winfield - December 4, 2019 2:08 pm

    Man you’re batting a thousand this week!

  29. Martha Black - December 5, 2019 4:33 am

    They often say, “charity begins at home”. This ole man knows this whole world is “home” and every man and woman, a brother & sister. Without question or measure he freely gives. It’s the only way…….. Merry Christmas!


Leave a Comment