Livingston native’s truck company hauls Capitol Christmas tree more than 3,400 miles

By: 
Liz Kearney

The U.S. Capitol’s Christmas tree came from Montana this year, and it was transported to the nation’s capital on a truck owned by a former Livingston resident. 

Whitewood Transport, of Billings, is owned by Michael Wilson, a 1977 graduate of Park High School, his proud mom, Helen Wilson, said last week. Helen still lives in Livingston, where she works for the Huppert, Swindlehurst & Woodruff law firm. Mike Wilson’s company was awarded the contract to truck the tree — a 79-foot Engelmann spruce — from northwest Montana to Washington, D.C. 

The tree arrived in D.C. Nov. 27, and it is scheduled to officially be lit Wednesday evening, Mike Wilson said Monday. 

The tree was cut Nov. 7 and left Eureka on Nov. 13 on a brand-new Kenworth T680 truck, Wilson said. 

The tree has another local connection — Livingston native Taylor Rockafellow, a Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden, was on hand near Troy to see the tree loaded on the truck. Rockafellow shared some of his photos with The Enterprise.

Kenworth donated the use of the truck and the vehicle wrap, and another company, Hale Trailer, donated the use of the special trailer. Whitewood was responsible for its own fuel and driver costs, Wilson said. 

But Wilson didn’t seem to mind chipping in his costs. 

“We’re the only truck out of about 3.5 million (in the U.S.) that got to haul this tree,” he said. “It’s an honor.” 

Wilson said Whitewood may have been selected because of its reputation and for being named Montana Motor Carrier of the Year several times by the industry group Motor Carriers of Montana. The truck’s driver, Larry Spiekermeier, has been named Driver of the Year by the organization twice, in 2009 and 2015. 

“He’s a very qualified guy and did a fantastic job,” Wilson said. 

The tree on the trailer was 18 feet wide and 103 feet long — about 30 feet longer than a traditional load length. The trailer had two large water bladders attached that kept the tree watered during transport, soaking up about 20 gallons a day, Wilson said. 

According to a press release from A.D. Creative Group, a marketing firm based in Billings helping out with distributing information about the Capitol Christmas tree, this is the 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas tree, and the second from Montana. 

Seventy other trees were also cut from Montana for other Washington, D.C. locations, according to the release. 

On its way to the East Coast, the tree made official stops in 20 communities in six states, in places where the truck and tree could be secured overnight, Wilson said. 

“Thousands of people came out to see it,” Wilson said. “It was really fun.” 

Wilson said he’ll be in D.C. to see the lighting ceremony Wednesday. He was invited to watch the lighting with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan from Ryan’s office balcony, and he has time scheduled with all three members of Montana’s Congressional delegation. 

Wilson said he loves D.C. and think all Americans should visit the nation’ capital.

“I think everybody should go to D.C.,” he said. “I love the memorials and the monuments. It’s so cool to see, and to get a taste of what’s happening and who’s running our country. And even if we don’t always agree with them,  it’s important to get in there.”

And he feels honored to have had a hand — or at least a  truck — in the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. 

“It’s called ‘The People’s Tree,’” Wilson said, “and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this. Part of our core values here is a sense of community. Our community doesn’t end at the Billings city limits or state border — it’s the United State of America.”

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Liz Kearney may be reached at lkearney@livent.net.