The Christmas Box
Entry # 8:
Fighting Fires to Stay Warm
The following excerpt is found on a storage box, used to house Christmas ornaments, a bedraggled cardboard arrangement, upon which I began scrawling an annual message, careful to affix the date each year. Some of the messages are filled with hope and whimsy; others, with dark forebodings of dire straits. Still others contain a blending of the two, a more accurate description of life up here on the mountain, on Bell Springs Road, and possibly where you live, also.
January 3rd, 2008,
It’s time to put the box away
And this is when I get to say
The things that have occurred to me
Over the past year or three.
Island Mountain comes to mind;
will it turn into a mine? [Gold, that is]
Will streamlining do the trick this year?
So at the end we don’t need beer [to cry in]
Will the boys be here, or up there?
I guess it depends on time to spare.
But if we do it right this time
We’ll get to party at Christmastime.
Will Annie be the quilting queen?
Or will she be a diva?
Will Benny and Lito keep fighting fires
To stay warm in the winter?
Good Luck 2008!
I must have put on my poetry pen that day, because I seemed to lurch on for a while. In any case, I think I will start with the quilting diva then, because big things went on this year when we decided to bring the long-arm up from Laytonville, and install it upstairs in our master bedroom. The first thing we had to do was find someone willing to take on the task of taking the long-arm apart, and reassembling it up here on the mountain, because it sure was not going to be me. Every time I take something apart, I always have stuff left over at the end, and I didn’t think that would go over too well with Ann.
However, two parcels up, in Tommy Tillinghast’s old spot, Sparky came though with flying colors. He snagged that spot a few years back when Tommy finally figured out that he wasn’t ever going to be able to get it together enough to hang out up here for any length of time. Meanwhile, Sparky has a way with this exact kind of thing, and it worked out very nicely. Of course, sleeping under the long-arm had its disadvantages, or so we figured, because we had already moved our bedroom downstairs (in the lowering living room, as Lito used to call it) so that there would be a home for the big long-arm.
In the boys’ old bedroom, I constructed a lightweight, ten feet long, by five feet wide table on wheels, so that Annie could stretch out the longest quilt made (seven feet) without it having to touch the floor. In the room over the kitchen, she did all of her ironing, because each component of a quilt must be ironed before it can be sewn together. In all, Ann uses three rooms upstairs for her quilting endeavors. The part I like the best is that she no longer has to make that daily commute to Laytonville, especially in the winter when the roads are icy.
I liked the last two lines, because I never thought about the paradox of fighting fires to keep warm, in the winter that is. Cal Fire is seasonal, the only all-year-round employees being the captains, and a selection of engineers. So Ben and Lito scramble in the off-season, both volunteering for their respective community volunteer fire department, and then doing the jobs that have served them well in the past.
We’ll see Ben at the video store, helping Pete out as he’s done for years, and Lito stays busy weed-eating in the spring and doing firewood, fencing and football (on the TV) in the fall. Casey always has this project or that going on, so there is usually job security up here, if they are so inclined, so they stay busy when they choose to.
Island Mountain was an enigma. I thought it was going to prove very lucky indeed, one of the earlier trips up there, because we had brought up an excavator to help move gravel from the source to the new road. Well, that old excavator was feeling right frisky, and it plumb up and toppled down to the left, while Brother Man Casey was exiting out the right.
I don’t know how many tons that puppy weighed, except that Casey was simply no match. We were fortunate enough to get away with “just” having to shell out five grand for the repair of the engine, which was running when it took its fall. However, five grand sounded cheap to me when you figure that the price included an escape clause.
As for the streamlining reference, I had done a little medical grow the previous year, but had had to spread things out so as to not be likely to attract any unwanted attention. In deciding that what we had going was pretty innocuous, we simply went right out into the open in my back yard, and put our six “girls” in holes the size of an olympic swimming pool each. We figured that if big was good, then bigger was better.
Of course, there was the usual reference to partying at Christmas time, something that we knew a lot about. It seemed nice to me that the feeling never seemed to grow old, only the trees up at the Christmas tree farm, some of which now tower fifty or more feet into the sky, whereas they were perfect applicants for our living room twenty-five years ago.