Too many cedar thickets were a reflection on one's farmland in earlier times. Yet, cedar had many important uses.

Bodies of this evergreen grew straight and provided the best fence posts for fields and around animal lots and pens. Resistant to rot, the posts would last longer than those of other wood, unless it was locust.

Wooden buckets and barrels were vital to early American living. Strips of cedar commonly formed the walls of these containers, although there was an occasional "Old Oaken Bucket" like the one that hung in poet Samuel Woodworth's well.

Butter paddles were normally made of cedar. The smooth dense surface of the wood was the best for shaping a perfect cake of butter. Paddles commonly stood in an earthenware crock jar along with wooden spoons on the kitchen counter--handy for a mom to grab as a light discipline tool if there wasn't time to go for a limber peach tree switch.

Cedar lumber was turned into various pieces of furniture. One of my most treasured possessions is a large cedar chest that my father made for my mother shortly after they were married. Her nephew was experienced in woodworking, and he helped with the foot-powered lathe that turned out decorative rounded posts that fit onto each corner.

Brides-to-be often had a cedar "hope chest" in which they placed linens and other household items, the contents becoming their contribution toward the upcoming marriage.

Whenever a family was fortunate to add a cedar chest to their belongings, it became a special storage place. Its insect-repellent aroma made it a perfect protection for important paper documents, baby's outgrown first booties and other keepsakes.

When ironing clothes with the heavy flatirons heated on the stove, my grandmother would often break off a small clump of cedar foliage and lay it on a rag at the end of the ironing board. Every so often she would run the hot iron over the cedar to keep the surface slick and free of starch residue.

If my father was burning sage grass off a plot of land, he would equip himself with a sizable cedar limb. It was the best for beating any flames of fire that were getting out of hand and spreading.

Our tobacco pegs were hand-carved from cedar. They had custom-shaped handles to fit our grip. Yet, I remember well the blisters that formed on my hand long before we finished setting the crop.

A drawback in using cedar for fuel was its tendency to pop sparks. However, we put up with that for kindling and split small pieces to place under hardwood logs because it caught quickly from the strike of a match to get the fire started in the grate.

As versatile as cedar was, nothing outshone its importance as when a fresh young tree was cut and brought indoors for our Christmas tree. With its fragrance filling the house and foil ornaments glittering on the branches, we sat in admiration. We had no desire whatsoever for anything as foolish as an artificial tree.