Earlier this fall, when Nooks Lindell of Arviat, Nunavut, was building a new wooden sled to haul behind his snowmobile, he planned to break it in by going to the treeline to chop down a real Christmas tree.
He never imagined how he’d actually do it.
It was –31 C when Lindell made the trip with his friend Joe Gauy on Dec. 7. They travelled almost 130 kilometres inland from their hometown, a communiy of some 2,600 people on the western shore of Hudson Bay.
Four and a half hours into the trip, they realized they hadn’t brought any tools to chop down a tree.
Lindell’s axe was at home, and the hacksaw he expected to find in his toolkit wasn’t there. There was no saw in the emergency multi-tool he carries around, either.
Lindell looked to Gauy for advice.
“He said we have two choices: We can pull it down with the snowmobile, or we could shoot it,” Lindell said.
Pulling a tree down with their snowmobiles sounded like a good way to get stuck, he said.
“I had just bought a lot of bullets half price, so I was OK with the idea of shooting it down,” he said.
It took ten shots with a .303 calibre rifle to fell the six-metre tree he’d picked out for his high -ceilinged living room. And, he got a bonus tree.
“I was going through one tree and hitting the next tree. So I took two trees down,” Lindell said.
The men shot down four trees in all. And while Gauy has one decorated in his home, Lindell is using an artificial one because the trees didn’t travel well during the dark and bumpy ride back to Arviat.
“Sure enough, when we got home, the trees didn’t have many needles left — maybe one or two branches with a couple of needles,” Lindell said.
He also lost the end of the tallest tree when he hit a snowbank.
“Our trail was probably easy to follow because of all the needles left behind,” he said.
Next year he’ll be taking advice from his uncle, who gets a tree from the treeline every year, by going on a warmer day when the needles are less likely to fall off.
His real, damaged tree is outside for now, and Lindell has plans to craft a kakivak, an Inuit fishing spear, from the trunk.
“In the end, they were pretty expensive trees, if you consider all the gas and all the repairs we had to do to our machines,” he said.
“But we knew we had a good story, so we had a good laugh about it and we’re totally okay with it.”
Related stories from around the North:
Finland: Record Christmas snow cover in Finnish Lapland, Yle News
Sweden: Organic Christmas trees a growing market in Sweden, Radio Sweden