Tuesday, December 08, 2009
I am having a nervous breakdown, so pal John Dowson will take over with his Christmas story on Ivan's Blog
A most unforgettable Christmas
By John Dowson November 18, 2009
On Christmas 1962 I was living in Calgary Alberta , I had planned on spending the Christmas holidays with my younger brother Richard who lived with our older brother Bill and his family in Drumheller about 75 miles east of Calgary. Drumheller is world famous as the paleontology capital of Canada and the home of the Canadian Dinosaur museum. The town is located in the Alberta badlands in a deep canyon cut by the Red Deer River. Driving to the town on the flat bald prairie you would never know there was a deep canyon with a town at the bottom until you were right on top of the cliffs overlooking the town. There are no trees to speak of on the prairie, but on the top of the cliffs overlooking the town there are small spruce trees clinging to the edge. Where they came from no one knows, but there they are holding the cliff edge from eroding. I arrived two days before the big day and was immediately taken to the local IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) lodge to get into the Christmas spirit. In Alberta in the 1960’s there were no drinking establishments in small towns unless you joined a lodge, and as it turned out everyone in Drumheller was a member of the IOOF lodge or the Legion.
On the afternoon of December 24th after Christmas more spirit at the IOOF lodge Bill said “Why don’t we go out and cut our own Christmas tree”? “That’s a great idea” I remarked, so we picked up a saw, a hatchet and some rope to tie the tree to the top of my station wagon and drove up the canyon. Bill scoured the top of the cliffs for the perfect Christmas tree. “There it is” he hollered as I slid to a stop “It’s the Dowson Christmas tree”. I got out of the car and looked up and 200 feet above on top of the canyon wall stood a row of fir trees. “Get out the saw and the climbing gear” he said “we’re going after a big Christmas tree”. To fortify ourselves for the climb we took a few swigs on the Christmas rum bottle we had with us to keep out the cold and started for the top. . Halfway up we stopped and had a keep the cold out drink and proceeded to the top. When we reached the top we celebrated with the Captain, and began searching for the perfect “Dowson Christmas Tree” The largest tree we could find was about four feet tall.
“Theeessee is tha one” Bill exclaimed as Richard untied the saw and the hatchet he had strapped to his waist so he wouldn’t lose them on the climb up. We began sawing, but the saw kept bending in the wet wood so we took out the hatchet and began hacking away but the hatchet blade was dull and it just made marks on the little trunk. “Leave it” said Bill “leths get another one, one”. So we left the little battered tree and struck out at another one. After hacking at it with the hatchet, and sawing Bill gave a yank and as the tree broke free it began tumbling down the cliff with Bill following, making sure he didn’t lose the Cpt. Morgan on the slide down. An outcropping stopped their fall, so we rested, had something to keep out the cold and as I started down I slipped in the snow and we all began sliding down the cliff. The tree passed us on the way down and when we got to the bottom the three of us rolled over the Christmas tree. When I stood up the “Dowson Christmas tree” lay broken in three places and with most of its branches missing. “What’ll we do” I said, aw said Bill cunningly “it’s not to late, old Art’s Christmas tree lot is still open, he may have some left, let’s buy one and take it home” . We found a lovely six foot high spruce with spreading branches and drove it home. Bill’s wife and Children were at the door waiting for our own Christmas tree. “There’s the Dowson Christmas tree” he said and the children were overjoyed at its size and shape. “I didn’t know the fir trees at the top of the canyon grew that tall” Bill’s wife exclaimed. Oh Bill said, “There were taller ones than that, but we left them for next year” and we all went in to house to decorate “The Dowson Christmas Tree”