A large Colorado spruce that had grown tall and strong through years of some tough Nebraska summers and winters came down Monday morning, the gift of a southwest Omaha couple who donated the tree to the Durham Museum for the holiday season.
Crews from Union Pacific Railroad made relatively short work of the approximately 40-foot-tall, 30-year-old cone-shaped behemoth, which will grace the inside of the museum for the 2012 holiday season. The tree is to be decorated and the lights flipped on the day after Thanksgiving, with ceremonies to start at 4 p.m. It will hang from the museum's ceiling, with its trunk in a water-filled horse trough.
Donald and Phyllis Norskov's big spruce was cut down by the U.P. crews, which worked in 25-degree temperatures and stiff winds from the west. Two boom trucks backed into the Norskovs' front yard, anchored in and attached a harness to the upper section of the tree before a chain saw chewed into some lower limbs and then the trunk. From there, the spruce was lifted and loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled east on West Dodge Road and Dodge Street to the museum at 801 S. 10th St. The tree was slipped in through the museum's 10th Street doors, with a forklift pulling it through the tight entrance.
The tree had been in front of the Norskovs' home near 170th and Shirley Streets since before they purchased the three-bedroom, ranch-style house in 1990. It was time, the couple said, for it to come down. The spruce had begun to take over the front yard.
“I've nurtured it quite a bit over the years,” said Don, 75. “We gave it some TLC,” added Phyllis, 72.
Don said the loss of the tree “will give us a little more visibility out our front windows,” but he will miss the creatures that made their homes in its branches. “It's been a haven for birds,” Don said. “They really come in droves. All types.”
The vacant spot in the Norskovs' yard will be replaced by a red maple and grass. “I'm going to let the zoysia take over in there,” Don said.
Two years ago, the Durham Museum turned down Don's donation offer, saying the tree was just under the required 40 feet needed for proper display. Two more years of care and feeding resulted in the additional 1½ feet that the Durham Museum needed.
“I'm glad I was able to get it in” for 2012, Don said.
Durham Executive Director Christi Janssen, said she gets about 50 tree donation offers a year. She said it will take a crew from Mangelsen's, which donates the decorations, about three days to dress the tree.
The Norskovs said they plan to attend the tree-lighting, even though they never decorated the tree when the big spruce was in their yard.
“At our age,” said Phyllis, decorating the 40-footer “would have been a little tricky.”
The lighting ceremony is open to the public, but admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and $5 for children.
The tradition of a donated tree goes back to the 1930s when U.P. would cut down large evergreens from the Pacific Northwest for Union Station. Monday marked the 21st consecutive season that an Omaha tree has been cut by U.P. and taken to Durham for its annual holiday festivities.
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