Sunday, December 23, 2007
BC Christmas Memories
Months before I wrote my 1,000 dollar Christmas check to Ann and Alex, I spent most of my summer vacation on their land in the Chilcotin area of British Columbia. What an experience! My sister and I thought we had died and gone to heaven. We rode horseback everyday. We carded the wool to make horse blankets. We picked berries by the gallons. We went into the woods with Ann, who was a better hunter than her husband Alex, in search of enough meat to see them through the winter. Ann toted the gun, not us for god's sakes. We looked the other way and cringed when she raised the rifle to her shoulder. We knew what was coming, even though we had no clue there was a deer within sight. Ann knew.
Ann was from the Chilcotin tribe and Alex from the Bella Coola. Long before they met, maybe fell in love, and married, the Chilcotins and the Bella Coolas and the Shuswaps battled each other over -- what else? -- territory. But, that's not my story....
We learned a lot from Ann and Alex. I'll make this short. We adored them. They had really interesting friends. The game warden was all spit and polish. There was the guy who bought the bull for breeding that couldn't swim. The bull drowned before he got him to his ranch. There was Slim (yes, that was his name!) who bathed in Spain Lake, but not often we could tell when he'd come close. He rubbed his back on the tree trunks when he came out of the lake. We spied on him. There was the British fellow with the limp who ran the roadhouse at Alexis Creek. He put us up for couple of nights when Ann and Alex forgot they had a couple of charges to look after and went off to what they did in town when we had all gone into Williams Lake for supplies. The game warden took us to Jack-with-the-limp, and said "keep these girls until Ann and Alex come back through."
Jack said okay. The first night we were there while Jack was figuring out what to do with us, we were scared out of our minds. In the "licensed premises" (where legally, we weren't allowed), he told us to "sit over there and don't pay any attention to anyone." So, we did. After a while, we had to go to the bathroom. What we took to be the bathrooms said "Pointers" and "Setters" -- my sister, who was older, thought the pointers were the women because "they point out what has to be done." I wasn't sure about that. Finally, a guy got up from the bar and shuffled into the "pointers" and we knew the answer. What a relief!
We had many adventures. Too many to relate in this Christmas story.
Christmas, that year, I took a check from my mother's checkbook and wrote a $1,000 check to Ann and Alex. This was pre-electronic banking, bar codes, etc.
On the check, in that small but very consequential area stating the purpose of the check, I wrote, "1,000 CHRISTMAS WISHES AND 1,000 WISHES FOR A HAPPY NEW YEAR." Put it into an envelope, stamped it, and put it in the mail. Boy! Wouldn't they get a kick out of this, I thought. Pretty clever, Mick!
Well, they deposited the check into their account at the Royal Bank of Canada! I never thought they'd think a 12-YO would have the means to write a REAL $1,000 check! Some time later, after Ann and Alex had thought they had died and gone to heaven, my dad got a phone call from his bank. Stuff hit the fan, I'll tell you! I was in capital-T trouble.
That day our family got a Christmas card and a thank you note from Ann and Alex. Alex said the money made it possible for them to travel to see his mother for the first time in years. They just hadn't had the money. His mother was old and sick.
My dad softened and told me, "Well, you made them happy and gave them a great Christmas. Christmas is about giving. But, you are going to be working this off for months!"