Don’t have a tree yet? Don’t panic, but don’t expect much left

The last few trees at the Papa Noel lot in Oak Hill wait for customers shortly before the lot closed up shop on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. (KXAN/Chris Davis)
The last few trees at the Papa Noel lot in Oak Hill wait for customers shortly before the lot closed up shop on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. (KXAN/Chris Davis)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you haven’t gotten your Christmas tree yet, don’t panic. Despite a shortage around central Texas this year, there are still trees available — just maybe not quite the size or shape you were hoping for.

“We saw this tent as we were driving down the highway and we said, ‘Hey, come and see if we can get something,'” Rob Kidd, a local musician, said Thursday morning, just after buying one of the last trees from the Papa Noel lot in Oak Hill.

It’s a good thing he stopped when he did. “Not a lot to choose from today,” he laughed, holding up the tree he found. “But this is one perfect, kind of slightly ugly Christmas tree.”

The tree lot in a little league baseball field just off U.S. 290 was about to close up shop when Kidd got there. “This is a Christmas tradition, the last minute,” Kidd said. “When they’re closing down, that’s when I go shopping.”

Most of the six Papa Noel lots in Austin had already closed Thursday and were in the process of being torn down. They would’ve closed even earlier, Papa Noel owner Jimmy Coan said, if not for a last-minute delivery last week that kept them in business several days longer.

“This has been a very, very early season because of fears of a shortage,” Coan said. Late Thursday afternoon, the tent that had attracted Kidd to the lot had been torn down, and not even a shrub was left on the field.

Just down the road in Sunset Valley, a Home Depot store still had quite a few trees left on Thursday. They got lucky with a last-minute delivery themselves — it arrived close to a week later than expected.

Many grocery stores are out of trees, as are lots maintained by other groups. A choose-and-cut tree farm in Elgin stopped letting people into their fields a week ago, according to the outgoing voicemail message at the farm.

“Some people say that they haven’t had any in weeks,” Elena Stephenson said. She stopped by the Oak Hill Papa Noel, too, looking for a tree with her dad. “We started last night; we went to two places.”

Her family waited so long because they were all traveling from other parts of the country to spend the holiday with her grandmother in Buda. They waited perhaps a little too long. The “last of the last,” as Coan put it, didn’t fit the bill for Stephenson.

“But I’m still optimistic,” she said. “I’m hoping that we can find our perfect tree.” Early Thursday afternoon Stephenson emailed KXAN to say they did find it — in Dripping Springs.

There are still trees a little closer to home — as long as you can channel your inner Charlie Brown. “Maybe we’ll just put — like Peanuts — one little ornament at the top of it,” Kidd said before sliding the tree into the back seat of his sedan.

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