Apr 20, 2002
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Wasatch Rambler: Are maple trees and fire engines causes we should support?

Standard-Examiner staff

We just get rid of the guy with the fire engine and the guy with the tree shows up.

A tree planted in the soil from all 50 states. A tree that is now visiting all 50 states.

What do you do with these people, who seem to haunt newspaper offices around the nation this time of year?

They"re doing something they say is special. They"re really sincere, and they say what they are doing is really important.

But is it? You wonder. They"re not curing cancer or fighting child abuse. Their money goes to nobody else. It is not monitored by anyone else. You have to trust them.

Then they tell you that if they do not get in the newspaper, their very important enterprise will die and it will be your fault. But, hey, no pressure!

Item one, Craig Harmon, the above mentioned fire engine guy.

Craig is a nice guy. I like him. He showed up in Ogden Dec. 11 with a lock of Abraham Lincoln"s hair. In an interesting mix of dedication to the former president, the Lincoln Highway, the Transcontinental Railroad, Lincoln Pennies and firefighters in general, he was traveling across the country in a fire engine.

He is not a firefighter. He is the director of a museum he set up in Ohio about the Lincoln Highway. He freely admitted he"s making the trip to boost the museum"s fortunes since that"s how he makes his living. He is driving a fire truck, he said, because it"s a good way to get publicity.

The truck cooperated by blowing its engine in Ogden.

I wrote a story, a lot of people offered to help, he got his engine fixed and, early in January, he left.

Sort of. He made it all the way to Farmington and broke down again.

He called. He said he needed another story. Having done CPR on many dying vehicles myself, I gently suggested maybe it was time to buy a bus ticket. It"s not like the world is short of people with broken down vehicles.

Still, Ogden is a nice town.

Dean"s Automotive attained sainthood helping Craig. Craig admits his welcome wore a little thin in places, but others stepped up. When one Ogden fire station, which had been putting him up for free, told him it was time to go, another firefighter let him use a house being renovated. Craig ended up sleeping in a cardboard box hugging a space heater, but you have to admire his tenacity.

He finally did leave April 5 and, despite my not writing any more stories he still had me sign his valve cover.

No sooner had he pulled out then Otok Ben-Hvar called from Union Station about the tree.

For reasons too complex to explain here, Ben-Hvar, who lives in New Hampshire, decided to collect soil from all 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia and planted a maple tree in it. He was driving that tree to all 50 states and territories. He hoped to have it named "America"s Tree," and (surprise!) would I do a story on him?

I went down. Sure enough, it was a tree.

He had me sign a paper officially testifying that his tree was in Utah. He took my picture with the tree and even hugged me before he left.

I wished him well, but I also made sure his car engine was running well as he drove off.

I"d hate for Ogden to get a reputation as being a good place for these kinds of causes to break down.

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can phone him at 625-4232 or e-mail him at

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