Drive up FM 78 in Marion, and you can see what must be one of the tallest Christmas trees around.
It’s decorated with big, brightly colored ornaments and little lights and it takes a second look, at 35 mph, to see that it’s built of old tractor and ATV tires and that the sombrero-topped snowman standing alongside it isn’t exactly “frosty.”
“It’s ‘Pancho the Snowman.’ You’d be surprised the number of people who come out here and take a picture,” said Martin Gonzales, who owns Marion’s CMG Tire Shop with his wife, Heather, and whose family goes back more than 80 years in Marion. “Last week, there was a guy out here who set up a tripod and spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of the tree. I don’t know who he worked for. But people are amazed. They ask about it, and they laugh.”
Last year, Gonzales and his son, “Pork Chop” if we used his God-given name for this story, his buddies, neighbors and maybe even his teachers might not know who the boy was because to the whole town he’s always been “Pork Chop” built the Christmas tree out of a pile of old, worn-out tractor tires in the back of the shop.
The tractor tire treads, covered in green paint, look a little like spruce boughs, and the knobby, ATV ornaments in their myriad colors look like the holiday ornaments on the home yule tree. It all stands on a 2-by-4 frame with a University of Texas Longhorn at the top.
“I had a star on it last year, and on Dec. 23, which is my birthday, I dressed up as ‘Pancho Claus’ and the neighborhood kids came around to tell me what they wanted for Christmas, just like in a shopping mall,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, and it was amazing how well it’s been received. It’s all tires, as you can see. It’s just unbelievable.”
So unbelievable that Marion gave Gonzales’s business its holiday decorating award last year.
So unbelievable, even, that the Texas Department of Transportation took notice of the cars slowing so drivers can do the double-take on the tree and asked Gonzales to move it no simple matter back away from the road.
It was one of those “eye of the beholder” things, Gonzales said.
“They said it obstructed sight lines and was a traffic hazard,” Gonzales said.
This year, Gonzales, “Pork Chop” and a couple of young cousins, Adrian Campos and Gabriel Corona, added the snowman complete with orange nose. But a close look reveals that the nose isn’t the traditional carrot.
“It’s an orange funnel out of the shop,” Gonzales said. “I cut it down, and from the highway, it looks just like a carrot, doesn’t it? I have a lot of ideas, like using sticks for arms. I hope to add a little bit to it every year.”
Gonzales might have added more this year, but he’s been busy with work not a bad thing. He also drives a Marion ISD bus, and “Pork Chop” rides to school with dad.
“It’s kind of cool,” Gonzales said. “I get to take my boy to school and I enjoy the kids.”
His wife has challenged him and his son to come up with a similar idea for other holidays, and the ideas have been coming fast and furious.
“Valentine’s Day is simple,” Gonzales said, although he didn’t say just what he’d do so it could be a surprise to his wife.
For Thanksgiving, he has an idea for a tire-built turkey.
For St. Patrick’s Day, Gonzales said he could do a shamrock or maybe a leprechaun but he’d have to get back on that.
“My wife’s Irish, and I’ll have to ask her,” Gonzales said. (Tire Review/Akron)