Photo by Danny Fulgencio.

Neighbor Lee Scammel is a creative guy who enjoys posting videos online, be it his performances of country-tinged originals full of gentle humor or simple do-it-yourself fixes for old Tudors and Craftsman cottages populating the neighborhood. Oh, and don’t forget his tutorial on walking your Christmas tree.

About that tree. It’s fair to say that Scammel is enjoying a bit of Andy Warhol-esque 15-minute fame in East Dallas with his series of YouTube videos about a lost, unwanted tree.   

It all started with Eric Laudermilk’s post on Nextdoor in late December. “Thanks for the free tree, ya filthy animal,” read the subject line, along with a video from his home security camera of a bare tree flying over his fence, landing unceremoniously in his backyard. Look closely, and you’ll glimpse someone running quickly down the alley and away from the “crime scene.”

As the modern-day equivalent of chatting over the fence, Nextdoor comments poured in. About a hundred ranged from amused to appalled. One neighbor labeled the incident “TreeGate 2018.” While most comments were along the lines of “Wow” and “Who does this?” a few wiseacres chimed in, suggesting the tree was on its way to be “chipped.”

One commenter was Scammel. “I’ve got to do something with this,” Scammel says he thought at the time. “I immediately thought up the video about a tree looking for a home for Christmas.”

Laudermilk was on board right away. “The whole tree-over-the-fence situation is hilarious, so my wife and I figured we should keep the laughs going and let Lee make the video.” He gives Scammel all the credit. “He did all the work,” Laudermilk says.  

In the video, a poor Christmas tree, dubbed “The Ugly Christmas Tree,” wanders the neighborhood looking for a home after being tossed over a fence. It hitchhikes, rings doorbells and suffers indignities and misadventures until — well, we don’t want to give away the ending.

Tacked on at the end is the original Laudermilk video, as well as behind-the-scenes footage. Think of it as “The Making of ‘The Ugly Christmas Tree.’”

Next up: “Christmas Tree Walking,” in which he strolls down a neighborhood street with the tree on a leash. “I wasn’t sure if it would stay upright, but it did,” he says. “It even swayed back and forth like it was walking.”

The tree videos caused a buzz, but Scammel has been posting videos, almost 500 of them, on his YouTube channel, “Dusty Guy,” for years. He has amassed 8,000 subscribers and almost 7 million views. His first video was an instructional piece on building stairs to his brother’s second floor.

Semi-retired from construction and carpentry work, Scammel has always been a curious guy, all the way back to the age of 7 when he took apart his mother’s watch to see how it worked. No, he wasn’t able to put it back together. Sorry, mom.

In retirement, he still enjoys doing handyman jobs around the neighborhood and helping a wider audience with his tutorials. Scroll through the videos on his YouTube channel, and you’ll learn how to repair a running toilet, install a doggy door, build a cabinet, hang drywall, sharpen drill bits and screwdrivers and many other DIY projects.

His original intent was to provide his sons with DIY information for future reference. But he found he enjoyed the process, and his YouTube career took off. “I like to keep myself busy and not sit around. It’s fun to do, and I like to help others out,” he says.

He’s received positive comments online and personally from viewers. And then there was the fellow at Lakewood Ace Hardware. Scammel and the gentleman began chatting, and in the conversation, the new friend mentioned a “really helpful video” he’d just watched, walking him through a tough fix at his house. Unbeknownst to the man, Scammel had posted that video.

Alongside those fix-it tutorials are the occasional songs that Scammel performs. Scammel credits longtime Tremont Place neighbors Joey Crabtree and Laura Mann for helping him with the melodies and general polishing of the numbers. Crabtree has been in the music business, lately of rock band Joey C Jones, for almost 40 years.  

But the lyrics are mostly from Scammel, and he finds inspiration everywhere. Everywhere, as in lying on a gurney waiting for a colonoscopy, “The Colon Song.” Grocery shopping led to these lyrics: “I checked out with the groceries/You checked out with my heart.” And remember the scourge of rental bikes? “The Bike Song” laments the bikes, the city’s floundering response and users’ thoughtless discards. Scammel wrote, “If you leave it on the shore/The Lady of the Lake will bring it to your door.”

Clearly, Scammel is having fun. Laudermilk sums it up: “Lee’s videos are great. He works hard on them, and I know everyone in the neighborhood appreciates his work.”

Patti Vinson is a guest writer who has lived in East Dallas for more than 15 years. She’s written for the Advocate and Real Simple magazine.