Chinook, the husky, wasn’t the best traveling companion. Nor was my brother for that matter. They were both excessively car-sick and perpetually feeding off the other’s demise.
I don’t mean this figuratively (At least not in the dogs jurisdiction.), because he would hurl; eat his own spew then my bro would retch. This cycle would continue both directions each weekend across the mountain pass.
This does make for an unappealing lead into a Christmas tale thirty years hence, I know. And those trips were miserable. Those trips were vital, though, to my Mom as opposed to remaining a single parent in Farson Wyoming, population 200, alone.
We drove across South Pass the weekend before Christmas, just as we did each Friday afternoon.
We hadn’t got a Christmas tree because we would not be staying in Farson.
Taking all of our packages over the mountain this week prior to Christmas, because the next week as soon as school was over,we’d head back across the mountain to stay through the New Year with grandma.
Mom’s Toyota Hatch-Back was our least ideal mode of transit each weekend across the south pass of the Wind River Mountains.
We did have a few minor mishaps, and always dependable angels along for the ride, for we always arrived unscathed, the four of us: Mom, my big brother, the husky and I.
We drove to camp in my grandparent’s basement each weekend as we did the weekends prior to Christmas break, loaded with our meager Christmas loot. And then back again to Farson for another week of school and teaching beyond the south pass.
School let out early the last day before Christmas break. Snow was falling, the wind began.
Grabbing our luggage and the dog, we headed north in the Hatch-Back. The winds picked up speed, the snows plummeted. Peaking atop South Pass, the puking subsided, and we were stuck!
Well, not entirely stuck, we had an option.
I will never forget the light that shone from the window of an old cabin from across the snowed in prairie. What the light was, nor why it was a glow, I will never know. Someone was there in that abandon old cabin atop South Pass.
Snow fell through the night. The highway across the pass remained closed; no plows dared open the blizzard for our little car. Farson, we returned to sit out the storm.
The dozen or so neighbors residing around the school had also departed, obviously south and away from the storm, for their Christmas Holiday. Therefore, we were not only isolated in our rural Wyoming town, we were abandon.
We hiked to the Big Sandy River. Chopped a sagebrush to decorate for our tree and played there on the ice; thin ice, which my mom broke through. Submerged to her waist, scared and nearly frozen; my bro, Chinook and I drug her and the tall sagebrush home.
We covered our sagebrush tree with popped corn and beads that Christmas Eve. While the snow fell our Christmas presents, and our Christmas dinner waited across the mountain.
It was 1981. We did have TV, and one or two stations. No matter, because we did get the Mandrell Sisters and Hee Haw!
We ate the popped corn and grilled cheese sandwiches, Mom thawed, we were safe from the storm, no one was puking. And we did have a Christmas tree.
Christmas morning the storm broke and The South Pass Highway opened before noon.
I was sad to leave our sagebrush tree. My mom. bro, the dog and I, though content, we made the trip Christmas day. And just in time for dinner at the Grandparent’s house, presents too. For my Mom’s sake, the storm subsided in the nick of time.
Thirty years later, I know how blessed we were that Christmas. Christmas is like that light that shone from the old Cottonwood cabin atop South Pass. With patience and trust, because of Christmas and the light it brings, we always have an option.