Hunting mistletoe for fun and ‘profit’

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By Rick Dalton

Sitting here and seeing the wind move the now almost leafless trees brings back memories of past Christmas seasons and things that happened or were done to add a bit more spice to the holiday period. One such memory was our quest to gain or at best earn more liquid assets so that we might better enjoy the season’s offerings.

Spending money, like today, was seemingly always in short or nonexistent supply and many different ways were tried to increase the meager amount that never seemed to grow beyond a mere pittance of becoming more than worthwhile. The Christmas season of 1965 is memorable as one where we had not “two pence” to procure gifts of merit for those whom we deemed worthy, and it was wearing a sore spot into our fragile egos.

Like most of my friends, I was home from college for the holidays and jobless during this break from more scholarly activities. My friend, Tommy Rusk, and I were both unemployed and we shared many happy hours of doing nothing but figuring out how to continue doing nothing.

For some strange reason we found ourselves in one of the Atlanta area nurseries and were appalled at the cost of almost everything displayed by the merchant. One thing that caught our attention was the sprigs of mistletoe that were dangling from the ceiling bearing price tags of $1 and upward. Neither of us could imagine why anyone would pay a whole dollar for something that grows wild on many trees in the area and is considered a pest by those who promote agriculture and tree farming.

On our way back to wherever we were going the idea of harvesting mistletoe for fun and profit began to fester in our minds. We figured that if the stores could sell mistletoe sprigs for $1 each, surely they would gladly pay us at least a quarter for each bunch we delivered to each store we encountered.

Tommy was majoring in accounting and knew all about economics, while I was majoring in avoiding the draft and knew a little about the base instincts that propel all of us through this life. So, as we rode back toward our homes north of Atlanta, we planned to make the great harvest of mistletoe the very next day.

Tom’s dad had a real nice horse and cattle ranch. Along each pasture’s fence line there grew many now leafless oaks whose limbs were hanging full of mistletoe just begging us to bring it down and enjoy the profits of our labors. We figured that to climb each tree was totally against our principles as we were now “college boys” and having entered this much higher plane of learning, it was our charge to engineer a method that made harvesting both relaxing and enjoyable.

Tommy and I had been hunting buddies for several years through and we figured the only true and simple method to bring down the mistletoe without undue strain on our physical and mental processes was to shoot the stuff down with our .22-cal. squirrel rifles. So with several boxes of ammo, our faithful rifles and a cooler of liquid refreshments we spent one of the most memorable days of my youth lying on our backs while we harvested mistletoe.

Tom’s dad had loaned us his pickup truck for our venture into the world of supplying seasonal items to a needful public. After most of the day we had managed to fill the bed of the truck almost full of great gobs of mistletoe.

For some strange reason most people who purchase sprigs of mistletoe want some that has the greasy white berries among the leaves. I guess it is an aesthetic reason as 50 percent of the mistletoe we harvested during that autumn day in 1965 hit the bed of the truck sans berries.

Once we had completed our harvest, we sprang into action and drove back to Atlanta to hawk our wares. Either the mistletoe we were trying to sell was of inferior quality or the mistletoe market had dried up in the previous 24 hours as our luck in providing this special herb of the ages seemed to flit away more each time we made another try at selling to the approached merchant.

After what seemed like an eternity of getting no results in our efforts to show a profit for all of our strenuous labors we gladly accepted an offer from one merchant to take the entire load for the unheard of low price of $10. After we counted out expenses, we figured we had sold the entire load for perhaps a net profit of seven bucks, if we did not include labor nor reimburse Tom’s dad for the use of the truck.

Remember, this was 1965 and the cost of most things was really much less than today. With a gleam in our eyes we realized that we now had enough liquid assets to provide us with some holiday cheer, and the day was not wasted after all.

Rick Dalton and his wife, Brenda, are former Corridor residents who moved not far away. Some of his rememberings are a bit far fetched but he likes to say, “If we cannot have a little fun while passing through, then plunk it.”