Gardener Gives Away Christmas Trees to Neighbors All year, one New Hampshire man's garden feeds his less fortunate neighbors, and every winter, he welcomes those people to his forest of Christmas trees. New Hampshire Public Radio's Sean Hurley visited Harry Pettit.

Gardener Gives Away Christmas Trees to Neighbors

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In New Hampshire, for the last nine years Harry Pettit has been very quietly giving away Christmas trees. And when Sean Hurley heard about this, he thought it might make a good story, and Sean was trying write his first radio story, so here's what happened.

SEAN HURLEY: When I first spoke to Harry on the phone, I could tell he wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of my coming to do a story on the way he celebrates Christmas. I don't want to be set up on a pedestal, he said. But after assuring him on the phone that there'll be no pedestals and no heroes, he reluctantly agreed to meet with me. So upon arriving, I wasn't too surprised to hear that he'd had second thoughts.

Mr. HARRY PETTIT: Hi, how are you doing?

HURLEY: Good, how are you doing?

Mr. PETTIT: Good. Did you get my message?

HURLEY: Oh no, I didn't.

Mr. PETTIT: Yeah, I said I wasn't interested.

HURLEY: Oh, I'm sorry.

Mr. PETTIT: No, not a problem. I thought it was someone coming to get a tree.

HURLEY: Right.

Mr. PETTIT: I was just coming out to help him.

HURLEY: I wasn't sure if the interview was over, as Harry explained his misgivings.

Mr. PETTIT: I don't need any limelight.

HURLEY: Harry's secret forest of beautiful Christmas trees will not be made available to the public at large. But then, who were the trees for?

Mr. PETTIT: The trees I give away are to mostly, mostly single working moms and people that can't afford a tree. And that's what I do.

HURLEY: Harry spreads the word about his trees by means of a little sheep that he distributes to the local pubs and taverns.

Mr. PETTIT: So I basically tell anyone that is employed here that if they want to come get a tree, they can. They don't hang it on a wall because I ask them not to, because I don't want just everybody coming up and getting trees.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

HURLEY: There's about a foot of snow, and it's very cold, maybe 10 degrees, as we walked the 50 yards or so to the stand of Christmas trees.

So now, how many people have you had come out to cut down trees so far?

Mr. PETTIT: I think probably about 15 people have been here already this year, and I had 100 trees and it's dwindling down.

HURLEY: And what kind of trees are these?

Mr. PETTIT: Mostly Balsam firs.


Mr. PETTIT: It's a regular Christmas tree. There's a few spruce in here.

HURLEY: It should be said here that Harry isn't specifically Christmassy in his charity. He gives food away too. As I arrived, he was working on some sour dough bread to be taken down later to some women in town. In the summer too Harry has several gardens, and though he harvests for himself, there's plenty of left over.

Mr. PETTIT: In the summer I give a lot of food away and then I get to a point where I just back my truck up, open the back up and I have bags there and I'll say, hey, it's a free market out there.

HURLEY: I had seen a sheet of paper taped to the garage door and a box of some kind on the driveway, and I asked Harry about these.

Mr. PETTIT: I have a saw down there, with twine and scissors and it basically just says cut a tree and please bring the saw back for the next family, and Merry Christmas.

HURLEY: As we walk back down to the house, Harry makes it clear that he gets something from his giving.

Mr. PETTIT: I have some lady, didn't even know her, came down to the bar the other day; she said, I really appreciate what you did. She said, I wouldn't have a tree otherwise. So that made me feel good.

HURLEY: And that's all there is to it, I think. That's enough for Harry, which is why he's so reticent about my doing a story about him, about this, because nothing else need be added here. The circle of giving and receiving is complete without any need for observation. And in a way I think Harry is letting me do this story for me. I didn't come here needing a tree. I came here needing a story, and that's what he gave me.

Thank you, Harry, and Merry Christmas.

For NPR News, I'm Sean Hurley in New Hampshire.

(Soundbite of song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year")

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