Woman pouring alcohol.


The koets family

20 Feet of Joy Beneath an 8-Foot Ceiling

The huge blue spruce more than doubles the width of the doorframe it’s meant to go through, even with drum-tight ratchet straps keeping the biggest of the limbs in check. From underneath the tree, Jon Koets counts to three, and it starts—a collaborative effort of shoving from outside and pulling from within. Like a hospital delivery room, there’s intense pushing followed by moments of rest. After ten minutes of this, the last of the behemoth tree finally nears the threshold, and it’s clear that one more good push will do it. In years past, this final thrust has put the tree’s trunk clear through the entryway drywall, but this year all goes smoothly.

The decades-old tradition of the Koets’ family giant Christmas tree has grown over the years as it has achieved legend status in the community of Richland, Michigan. Youngest son, Robbie, scouts trees weeks ahead of time with a tape measure. A 25-foot tree is fine, but what he’s really looking for is that eight-foot section somewhere in the middle that looks full, symmetrical, and beautiful. The actual number is 7-foot, 8-inches, which Robbie has calculated to be the maximum size to accommodate the tree and treestand under the family home’s 8-foot ceiling.

In the field earlier in the day, Robbie led his pregnant wife Shelagh, parents Karen and Jon, older brother Josh, and Josh’s partner Kirk, to the two trees he’d scouted—both full, round-shaped spruces about 20 feet high. The family debated the merits of each, but in one in particular Jon saw exactly what he wanted.

“It all comes down to the joy,” Karen says. “I know what’s coming. Once it’s all finished it’s just beautiful, and the kids come over and sit here at night to look at it. Friends come in, they take one look, and they just start laughing. It brings joy. Christmas joy.”


“We look for fullness,” he says. “with branches at the top that splay out side to side just so. She’s a beautiful tree. I just need a bigger living room.”

Extending the life of a pair of boots depends on extending the life of the shop equipment itself. “Some of the machines in the shop date back to the 1920s, the 1950s, the 1970s,” Aaron says. “When we need to get a part, a lot of it is really hard to find, so we tend to do a lot of the repairs ourselves. They all just do their job, and we keep them all going. That can be a job in itself.”

For a guy who loves working with his hands, it’s kind of a dream. Aaron’s forged his path into a life where he enjoys each and every day, a life where hard work doesn’t feel like work at all because it’s so rewarding.

Aaron Cobbler
Brown dress boots


, Leather work boots


, Tee shirt


, Henleyt sweater


three bluer collar workers at their job sites