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A white Christmas isn't always desirable


Or words to that effect reflected my wife's reaction to the beloved Christmas carol made famous by that equally beloved crooner Bing Crosby.

Particularly after the holiday ditty came waltzing out of the radio for the umpteenth time.

"I'm definitely not dreaming of a white Christmas," Maureen groused. "And I'll bet our ancestors never dreamed of them, unless you count the nightmares caused by an upset stomach, thanks to a bad batch of figgy pudding.

"If you had told them, 'May all your Christmases be white,' you'd have a fight on your hands," she added. "It was all very well if the treetops glistened, but they didn't want snowy slop up to their knees."

Normally full of holiday cheer, she was a tad grinchy after Mother Nature unplugged our electricity. We had just awakened in the predawn to total darkness. Our only working electrical device was a cheap battery-operated radio which made Bing sound like Alvin the chipmunk.

"Our forefathers and foremothers did just fine in the snow without electricity," I told Maureen. "Of course, they were made of sterner stuff. They had to be if they ate figgy pudding."

Besides, Maureen was exaggerating about the depth of the snow outside our rustic abode in the Siskiyou Mountain foothills south of Jacksonville. The white blanket was maybe 8 inches. Tops.

But she was quick to observe the National Weather Service is calling for the possibility of more of the same at our elevation — some 2,600 feet above sea level — through Christmas Day.

"We could have more than a foot of soggy stuff on the ground before Mr. Claus tracks that snowy slop into our house with his size 12 mukluks," Maureen lamented.

Although she was just guessing his boot size, she was right about the predicted snow conditions.

Sadly, our low-mountain snow often tends to be wet, creating ideal conditions for trees and limbs intent on falling upon power lines to leave us humanoids scowling in the dark. This snow also presents perfect conditions for the bumper car crowd, creating glass-shattering, metal-munching memories for those who like to drive fast on snowy roads.

Actually, I've always liked snow, probably the result of yearning for snow days away from school during my misspent youth in Southern Oregon.

Later, as an adult living in Alaska, I used to go winter camping with a dog-mushing friend in Trapper Creek during the dead of winter. We're talking camping when the mercury drops to a frigid 30 degrees below zero.

In those conditions, you slept inside a sleeping bag stuffed inside another sleeping bag. You kept your snow boots inside your bag to avoid having frostbitten toes after jamming a foot inside frozen footwear.

Hey, it was fun, despite the occasional frosty nip.

Alaskan snow is high-class stuff, an icy topping fit for the Last Frontier. But Western Oregon has only its distant Cousin Sloppy, an embarrassment to any mountain's proper winter attire.

Maureen is right that life without electricity is a challenge, particularly when you have to get ready for work in the dark.

But we quickly fired up the wood stove, which filled the house with warm, crackling cheer. Flickering firelight waved at us through the stove's glass door.

Waldo and Harpo, our two big pooches, plopped down by the stove for a long winter's nap. Our herd of cats nestled down among the canines.

The house was soon filled with the cheerful carols of snoring dogs and purring cats.

We dug out two battery-operated lanterns from our camping gear to provide a soft light that our ancestors would have found comforting. Our cabin was getting cozy.

Within a few minutes the pot of water began to steam on the propane gas stove set up on the covered patio.

Shaving while holding a flashlight in one hand had its challenges, but I managed to scrape off enough bristles to be presentable. And the Marine Corps shower — warm water poured from a pitcher — was a mite skimpy.

Yet we were refreshed when we sat down at the dining room table for a breakfast of bagels and bananas. Maureen sipped a mug of hot chocolate while I opted for a steaming cup of Earl Grey.

The contented pets sighed almost as one in front of the glowing fire. Outside, big flakes floated gently down upon our cabin in the woods.

"You know, this is really beautiful," my wife observed. "Maybe Bing was onto something after all. I can almost hear sleigh bells in the snow."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.