The story of “Carrie’s Tree”

You’ve probably driven by this Christmas tree just north of Red Bluff on Interstate 5 just before the roadside rest area 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 by the locals. 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. It was an osage orange and pretty rare in Northern California. She was denied her simple request and the tree stayed where it stood.
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 had known 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.
For two years the tree stood undecorated until the Hoofard and Lopez families decided to take over. For years they decorated it without anyone knowing they were the decorators. Until a family friend drove by and spotted them. They decided it was time to let everyone know who they were. On the same day every year this thoughtful family meets at the tree to bring happiness to everyone that travels I-5. They love hearing people honk and wave from both directions and they love hearing how much joy it brings to people. They said they will continue the tradition until it’s time for the next generation to take over. They have added lights to the tree and have also placed a sign big enough to easily read from the freeway that proclaims it as “Carrie’s Tree”.
Please share this story so the story of Carrie’s tree will live on! It has traveled all the way to Australia and Europe.
We have and still are having a very extraordinary year. May Carrie’s Tree put a smile on your face and a little love and hope in your heart during the holidays and 2021. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!
Copyright 2020 by Dottie Smith

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