Jack Tamlin might know more about Christmas trees than does anyone else… even Santa! The Tamlin family began harvesting wild-grown ones commercially since the 1930s, and Jack has run the family business for nearly six decades.
Besides changing weather conditions, moving trees in uneven terrain presents weighty challenges. On one occasion, Jack’s father Victor found it necessary to put on his thinking cap up in Flowers Canyon, near Poudre Park. He finally decided to slide trees down a steep slope using a guide wire. Down below, a guy caught and maneuvered each oncoming one to the truck.
Richard Tamlin (Jack’s uncle) and Richard Salisbury assumed the business from 1956 to 1960. Then Richard handed the saws over to Jack, who’d begun helping his dad at the tender age of five. The little lad had earned five cents for each tree he could carry out of a cutting area.
Now 73, Tamlin can carry up to five or six trees at a time by stacking two to four under each arm and dragging them out by hand. These are six- to ten-foot tall trees weighing 15-20 pounds each. Tamlin’s successful method is to go a ways, get down on his knees to rest and then press on, up to 200 yards. Oh, Tannenbaum!
Tamlin continued cutting trees on Graves land until 1964, when he moved the harvesting to three privately owned ranches in the North Park/Walden areas. He described some of the tree varieties he offers during the holidays and one of the conservation methods he employs. Lodgepole Pines sport long needles with a slightly yellow tinge and abundant cones. Sub-Alpine Firs have short, plump needles ranging from silvery-blue to light green to blue-green.
Even after cut, nine out of 10 Sub-Alpines will actually put out new growth when kept watered inside the home because warmer temperatures trick the tree into ‘thinking’ it’s spring. Tamlin once set one out on the shady north side of his house two weeks after New Year’s Day and continually put dried bread on it for birds. At the end of April, that tree remained green and hadn’t shed any needles!
Tamlin conserves natural resources and assures regrowth in forested areas. To replenish tree numbers, he always leaves a lower limb attached to the roots; it eventually regenerates into another tree.
Jack Tamlin might have cut his teeth on pine bark, but his many other career accomplishments include working with the U.S. Forest Service from 1960-1964 as Crew Boss at the Buckhorn Ranger Station, and creating topographical maps for the U.S. Geological Service in 1959. In 1968 and ’69, he worked for the Forest Service at Stub Creek Ranger Station. He fought more than 300 forest fires across the country, unofficially beginning at age six when he supplied water to firefighters on the lines (now a big no-no until age 18, but a somewhat less enforced taboo in the early 1950s).
Tamlin graduated from a law enforcement academy to serve as a fully commissioned Larimer County Deputy Sheriff from 1972-1978. Larimer County had no formal group designated to assist lost or injured folks in back/high country areas until 1972, said Tamlin. In that year, he and John Englebert started Larimer County Search & Rescue.
Tamlins’ Fresh Cut Trees lot in Laporte has tied down trees onto just about every kind of vehicle. In 2013, a man pedaled up and announced that he’d like to buy a 6-foot tree, provided it could be safely attached to his… bicycle.
After employees created the first known “bicycle built for me and my tree” by securely lashing the gigantic green beauty to the two-wheeler, off he went with his holiday guest of honor!
Plant nurseries, including the Plantorium in Laporte, Fort Collins Nursery in Fort Collins and Eaton Grove Nursery in Eaton, also annually market his trees. (This year, Fort Collins Nursery’s trees will start at $39.)
For more than 80 years, Christmas trees have remained a family affair. On busy weekends beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving and the next couple thereafter, 10-15 people work at the Tamlin lot located at A-1 Wildwater, 2801 N. Shields in Laporte. Besides their own fresh-cut Sub-Alpines and Lodgepole Pines, they also carry Fraser Firs and Balsam Firs from Michigan.