1870s: Christmas Gifts in the Wind

Changes make Christmas skip over Two Pan and Violet Spinrad.

Violet Spinrad says:

After a body experiences thirty Christmases, the thrill of the season crumbles into another day of work.  A child is needed to inflate the holiday. The wee ones know how breathe life back into Christmas.  Bricker, curmudgeon that he is,  says he could do with fewer kids and a little less Christmas. I told him he knew how to stop more kids from arriving, but there wasn’t a power on earth that could stop Christmas.

I wish a bear would hibernate with us, so we could "share the warmth"

He hasn’t been panning for gold much since sleet began punching the mountains. Air whistles in 2-part harmony thorough the chinks and cracks of the cabin,  and the children have taken to calling it the singing winds. All eight of us pile into two beds. It allows us to layer-up the few blankets we brought over the Oregon Trail. And kids in our bed put the kibosh on any of that procreating hanky-panky Bricker talks about.

I told the three younger children Santa wouldn’t find us in this valley.  They believe it. Not even the mail has found a way over the pass and into Two Pan. My children took this as a challenge.  Presently, they’re gathering wood and are angry at Bricker for burning down the Stick House. Its flames would’ve been better used  to signal the reindeer.

“I’ll shoot any damn deer that lands on my roof,” Bricker jokes. This set the youngest, Elizabeth, into sobs.

“Now, Sissy. A critter that size prancing on the roof would cave it in and kill us,” he says. Elizabeth stops crying. It’s believable. The cabin isn’t a sturdy building—evidenced by the singing winds and the ant-hill mounds of fine snow on the floor, after blowing through the tiniest of holes in the walls.

“Besides,” Bricker adds, proud that he’s thought up two related pieces of logic, “I hear reindeer make fine eating.” This sends two other children on a crying jag and Bricker riding off on a horse to find a quiet place in town. He’s been spending a lot of time at the Salt Lick Saloon. Says he’s doing odd jobs for them, but I catch the smell of hooch on his breath. The Christmas dolls and statues he’s whittling for the children will probably have their heads on backwards if he continues to “work” for the saloon.

I hope my vinegar pie is done

The children have made gifts too. I told McAllister his gift of wheat flour was enough.  The next oldest boy, Jedidiah has been cutting and stacking wood for weeks. We’ll be able to keep the cabin warm and even cook in the mud oven (if they don’t try to signal Santa.)

Because we don’t have a cow, Maggie, the 13-year-old, said her gift was to walk the 5 miles to the Woolseys and trade needlepoint for some milk.  The three little ones miss milk so much. It’ll be a treat for them to have it with their biscuits on Christmas morning.

I’ve used the last yardage on my material bolt to make shirts for the kids, sewing after they’ve gone to bed. Moving here has changed us.  Having nothing for Christmas makes the smallest kindness as big as the sky and the stars swooping over our heads.

It’ll be a good Christmas, even if the only thing that can find us is the wind.

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About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in Humor, Pioneer Friday in Two Pan and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to 1870s: Christmas Gifts in the Wind

  1. Were you spying on me up at the old cabin? Great story and so charmingly told!

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  2. Michael Ann says:

    Great writing! I loved this and I’m loving your blog. So true about Starbucks, but same at other coffee places too. I get Candy Cane Lattes at our local chain grocery store, but I live for this time of year and Candy Cane Lattes….

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    • Barb says:

      You’re kind, but your blog reveals that you LIVE for luring people to the high side of the body mass index with ultra easy, fantastically yummy food. I’m having a party in two days and making the So-Easy-An-Idiot-Like Barb Can Make This Rocky-Road candy. Since your dessert represents you…it’s like you’re at the party. (If you were here, I’d make you make this candy).

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      • Michael Ann says:

        Hee! Ok, you got me, I really do love to entice people to eat SUGAR 🙂 No bacon infusions though! Thanks for your comment on my blog 😉 Can I change the title of my Rocky Road recipe to what you called it? That would REALLY pique their curiosity! And if I were there, I would GLADLY make it for you! Let me know how it goes…

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        • Barb says:

          No. Don’t change the name of your recipe. I want people to hold onto the fading possibility that I might be brilliant until they make the candy. Then they’ll wonder why I can’t melt chocolate and I use marshmallows for my blow-pipe pistol.

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  3. Loved your Christmas in the 1870s. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Rose L says:

    I always loved receiving handmade gifts. They mean a lot to me.

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  5. Red says:

    Merry Christmas, Barb. This is such a delightfully cheery story of the humbleness we often forego in favor of glitz and glitter. Absolutely charming.
    Red.

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    • Barb says:

      Thanks Red. In doing research for the story I learned if glitz and glitter isn’t available…a person simply makes do with what they have. Makes me want to stay out of Macys and the mall, then I wouldn’t get caught up in the foo-foo.

      “Put the car keys down, Barb. Make fudge for the mail-lady.”
      “Awww…but Moose Track Popcorn is on sale…and the neighbors would like some and what about the newspaper guy…and”
      “Someone take those car keys away from her!!!”

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  6. Hmmm. Dolls heads on backwards… Sets my mind thinking. My youngest brother guillotined all mine after he studied the French Revolution. And told he had to repair them, some of them did indeed face backwards till the end of their days.
    Thanks. Another lovely post.

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    • Barb says:

      This is hilarious and perfect boy-revenge. What did he use as a guillotine?

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      • From memory, my father’s wood splitting tomohawk. I said he was just beheading them, he said I was an ignorant GIRL (you know the tone) and that this was a guillotine. Beheaded or guillotined, their heads came off just the same. I should add that my youngest brother is eight years older than I am, but is the youngest of my brothers.

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  7. I often wish I could be gobsmacked with a fresh orange in my stocking. Excess is the enemy of happiness.

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  8. Julie says:

    You really should write for Hallmark, as all of your Two Pan stories pull at our heartstrings. This is such an inspirational story for Christmas.

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  9. jakesprinter says:

    Great Spirit of Christmas 🙂

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  10. Spectra says:

    I’m loving that fancy Chris’mus wreath upon yer cabin door. What fine artwork! And you said you only specialized in stick-men!!! Bricker is cruel for threatening to eat the reindeer…but they do sound tastey, roasted over an open fire in the cabin. I betcha the kids would change their mind if they smelled Prancer and Blitzer roastin’ and a cracklin’, all slathered up in some fine, homemade Oregon Trail BBQ sauce 😀

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  11. souldipper says:

    Barb, you are incredible. Are all those little phrases natural to you?! I find them awesome and…authentic! 😀

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  12. Alice Lynn says:

    Christmas happiness today often seems to be measured by what we get and what we give; and I’m not talking love, laughter, and peace ever after. We are too often overwhelmed by things we don’t need and sometimes don’t even want. A gift from the heart, however humble, is the treasure of Christmas. Merry Christmas Violet.

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  13. Still trying to figure out how your mind works…hmmm. You tell a good story woman! Margie

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    • Barb says:

      Thanks Margie. Here’s how my brain works. Have you ever been doing a home project and said…”Let’s stick this wire in this connection and see what happens.” Sometimes there are sparks. Sometimes smoke. Everynow and then…a light comes on.

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  14. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    A truly lovely story, spending Christmas together is what is important.

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    • Barb says:

      Tell that to the washer repair man who hung out at my house all afternoon on a simple valve change. He finally admitted he didn’t want to go home to a house full of in-laws and relatives. We had a cup of tea,cookies, and I listened and nodded while he told me about his brother’s delinquent children who’d punched a hole in his wall and constantly tortured the family dog.

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  15. Margie says:

    Very Excellent post! I don’t think any of us want to return to those hard times, but I think most of us would be happier if we returned to simpler times!

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  16. Roxie Matthews says:

    I read about a woman who gave her neighbor a bag of rags for Christmas, and it was the best gift she got that year because you NEED rags. You clean with them, make sanitary pads with them, sew them into quilts if you have enough, and use the completely worn out ones to stuff into the chinks in the cabin to slow the wind down a bit. Waste not,want not!

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    • Barb says:

      Roxie, you may be one of the few women who understand the value of a rag. And that tells me so much. I’m with you on never throwing out ANY cloth no matter how holey or stained. From wicks to rugs and the worst was used in the mop. Every rag was important. If I don’t use a totally frayed piece in my “fire starter” bag of my 10 essential hike equipment, I try to put it out for the birds. (Although I’m sure some rabbits and rats have lined their nests with tiny pieces of my flannel.)

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  17. JSD says:

    This is such a great story…thanks for sharing it. It makes me think of my grandparents homesteading the plains of Alberta about a few decades later, but with exactly the same hardships.

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  18. digipicsphotography says:

    i’d never had made it without my car or stores just down the road. I’m certainly not the adventurous type.

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  19. Oh the thought of hunkering down together under a throw warms me all over. Shame on Bricker for scaring the wee ones. Leave it to the men to raise havoc. Maggie’s gift is priceless. Thank you for the story, and the picture Barb. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

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    • Barb says:

      Well, I don’t know about hunkering down with 6 hungry kids. Maybe reindeer jerky would be a treat. I was surprised to find that milk was scarce in the new land. A lot of the milk cows died on the Oregon Trail.

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  20. Wonderful story, and it does a great job of illuminating the fact that to those with little, the smallest thing is appreciated, and means a lot. Maybe we’d all better appreciate Christmas if it were stripped of all its trappings.

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    • Barb says:

      Thank you, editor. I keep telling my family it’s hard to wrap a trip to the islands, so just if they’d just tape a not on a coconut and stick it under the tree…I’m fine with that. So far a bag of walnut’s and a coupon to the local organic nut hut is all that’s shown up.

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