Glenn, a kid, and Amos prepare to feed cattle with “Red” and “Snap”.
Hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season, however you celebrate it. We celebrate a pretty traditional Christmas here on Alderspring.
It starts with the tree, about a week before Christmas Day. We get ours high up in the mountain forests that surround our remote valley. We just drive up one of the canyons that enter the flats of the Pahsimeroi from the quiet and wild peaks. Only the valleys in our country have homes and ranches in them—pretty much all of the mountain country is uninhabited, and public land.
Usually, there is pretty deep snow that forces us to walk up into the timber. In your mind’s eye, you could probably imagine us, walking single file in the powdery snow into the fir trees, with me (Glenn), breaking trail up front, packing the bow saw, and 7 girls trailing behind. Caryl usually brings up the rear, helping the little girls over the now well broken trail. At least one dog runs back and forth over the trail, sniffing fresh tracks of the elk, deer, mountain sheep, and wolves who live there.
Glenn and kids selecting the perfect tree.
This year, we picked a canyon a little too steep for the wee ones. We proved that early when Binner crashed on the frozen creek and landed hard on her rear. Ow. But Mel, the oldest, roared ahead of us in search of that perfect fir tree. Last year it was a spruce; this year, the kids unanimously decided on a fragrant fir. And not prickly, either, as they had many of their own collected ornaments to hang on it.
Sledding on the way to get a tree.
After what seemed nearly a mile up a steep timbered draw (pretty nice view, too of the surrounding peaks) Mel found a really nice fir in a cluster of other young trees. I always keep the kids from picking a lone tree (though perfect it may be) as there would be no others to regenerate that spot of forest.
We found it!
I pulled out the saw, and captured our prize, and eagerly carried it down the draw to waiting Caryl and the tikes. They were all grins: they would be decorating it tonight!
Then the Caroling, the night before Christmas Eve. Folks in our valley are pretty spread out, with most ranches at least a mile apart. So we loaded up in our beef hauling van and headed out. With us were some friends and most of the hired help we had this summer. We caroled old Christmas songs in the the single-digit air to half a dozen mostly older friends and neighbors down the valley. Some clapped (we aren’t real good, so that surprised us), one nearly cried (she had been lonely), another couple insisted on taking our picture, and another begged us to come in (there was a lot of us) for cookies and hot chocolate. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more—them or us…
Frost and snow on Alderspring Ranch.
On Christmas Eve, we usually head into town to our little church. This year, we did the same. Usually about 50 of us show up that night, and the service is just made up of some readings by congregants, and some real eclectic music (a traditional trumpet solo by Arlene, the little Anderson kids sung ‘Silent Night’ and the Tuck Family Band performed a rockabilly version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’—all quite good), and a short but sweet meditation.
And on that moonlit night, we headed off up the Lemhi Valley to some older friends, Gordon and Auntie Em, for some Christmas treats, and unbeknownst to the kids to a remote, lamplit log cabin they had up in the shadowy timber for us. No power or water, but a nice woodfire and oil lamps. Flickering palm oil candles beckoned us along on the trail through the trees. As we led the kids down the trail, the little ones wondered who was staying there on that cold moonlit night in this faraway place (the older ones figured it out!).
When they found it was us, they quickly warmed to the idea of a quiet Christmas Eve snugged in newfound bedding in that quiet cabin in the woods.
We had fed the stock extra the day before, so we would enjoy Christmas dinner with Gord and Em. I’ll tell you what we had for that wonderful meal on our next blog…
What about presents? Well, they do feature in. And there are many. But we also celebrate Christmas with those gifts for the 12 days, and those 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas, so all the way into January we open and share gifts to extend the best of holidays as long as possible.
The Christmas tree in all its splendor.
Caryl says it just gives me an excuse to keep playing Christmas music (I do really love it).
I say it gives the kids an excuse to leave that tree up much longer (they put so much into decorating it).
It really is the best time of year. There is a magic, a spirit in the air that we perceive every year as the Day draws near. A hope for peace on earth. And good will to all men.