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A different Christmas story

When I wore a young man's clothes and was going to college in Eugene, I remember reading about some sort of legal tangle with land sold in Christmas Valley. But I have long since forgotten the finer points. Given this is the Christmas season, could you folks at SYA refresh my cobwebbed-mind?

— James S., Medford

Just consider it our special gift to you and yours, James.

First, you need to know that Christmas Valley, while it may sound like a picturesque vale covered with fir trees and a river running through it, is in the high desert roughly halfway between Lakeview and Bend. There are no thick evergreen forests, no babbling brooks, no lush meadows.

In fact, the valley derived its name from the nearby and dry Christmas Lake, which was named after an early-day rancher named Peter Christman. The geographic name apparently evolved from Christman.

In any case, a California land developer in 1961 bought 70,000 acres of the desert country for $10 an acre. A town site was created with streets such as Candy Lane, Mistletoe Road and Vixen Street.

The land was then sold to people, largely in California, for up to $1,100 an acre. Very few of the thousands who bought the property actually moved there once they discovered the arid desert conditions, and about a quarter of them got their money back after successfully suing the firm for misrepresentation.

However, that is not to say Christmas Valley is not a fine place. It does have a healthy farming and ranching community.

The lesson learned from the scam is that Oregon's high desert country has a beauty all its own. But it is not nice to be naughty in Christmas Valley.