Out my window as I write this, it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The cool temperatures, the lights on people’s homes and businesses and along the streets as well as people seeing their breath when exhaling in early morning are signs that Christmas is getting close.
Ads on television have had me warming up for Christmas since the first of November. I remember when the stores had Halloween, then there was Thanksgiving and, as soon as that holiday was over, we would be inundated with Christmas carols and holiday advertising. Now, as soon as Halloween is over, Thanksgiving has already begun and Christmas carols can be heard, the numbers increasing daily until that is all one hears for the last two weeks.
In mid-November this year, Black Friday, which is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, started the first week of November and the stores haven’t looked back since.
But for me, the youngest of seven kids, the Christmas season is all about family. My youth years with my parents and my six siblings probably have produced more good memories of my childhood than all other holidays combined.
Christmas isn’t a big holiday these days as there are no children and my wife and I usually use the day to relax and have a great dinner. I watch football and she just dinks around doing what she wants to do—some work and some play. We will probably buy one big present we will both enjoy and call it quits.
But those great days of yore, leading up to Christmas day and culminating with the mid-morning opening of gifts and then the gathering at the big dinner table for the big family feast bring back some pretty tremendous memories.
I was very fortunate about two weeks ago to see my four remaining siblings, so their absence on Christmas Day won’t be quite as tough this year.
The kids are pretty well scattered in Arizona, England, Minnesota, Fort Collins and Meeker, so it had been years since we were all together. We each feel lucky to have gathered in Fort Collins for my (much older) sister’s 70th birthday. We had about 48 hours to recall some of the past holidays, and those stories brought laughter, tears and the appreciation for the other family members.
When talking about Christmas, there is one story that is always brought up first.
We fondly call it “The Shootout at 1700 Wood Ave.,” which took place in roughly 1957 or 1958 in Colorado Springs.
I barely remember the incident because I was four or five at the time. That made my oldest brother, Brian, 15, an age that Dad thought was a good time for him to start learning about guns.
We kids asked Dad what he wanted for Christmas and he said, “A pistol.”
This was a surprise answer but it wasn’t that strange a request back in the 1960s. Dad explained that he thought it was time the older kids learned how to handle a handgun (Not a radical idea 60 years ago). So the kids all chipped in with Mom and we bought our patriarch a new .38 caliber pistol.
When we all got up and around on Christmas morning after morning Mass and a quick breakfast, we always gathered in the large living room. Eyes were aglow as we slid the sliding wood door to the living room and looked around as we all knew which chair our goodies were piled on or near.
One by one, all seven kids opened one present, then we moved around the room until all presents had been opened, except Dad’s.
Finally, when we were all done with our gift openings and got in about five minutes of taking a second look at everything, Mom got up, like usual, walked out of the room, returning after about 60 seconds. This time, she presented Dad with a double-box gift.
Dad, I think, figured it was a new way to wrap a tie so he tried to look excited, knowing he had enough ties from over the years of birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas gifts that he could probably wear two ties a day and never duplicate any single tie in a year.
So, when he unwrapped the new, dark blue, Colt .38 caliber pistol, he was pretty excited. He got even more so when he opened the second box that contained two 50-shell boxes of .38 ammunition.
He truly was the kid at this Christmas Day gathering.
We all listened as Dad explained why he wanted the handgun and then he launched into about a 15-minute diatribe on the safety of handling a handgun and how we were absolutely forbidden to touch it or even thinking about touching it without him being there.
Admittedly, he put the fear of God—or fear of Dad—into us, so it was a safe bet that none of us would go near the gun without him.
When this was done, all of us went about playing with our toys or other goodies we had received for Christmas.
Not really watching Dad, we found out that he had loaded the gun, pointed it at the mantle over the blazing fireplace, brought the gun down again and unloaded the pistol. No problem.
After unloading the gun, Dad raised the pistol again and sighted in on the candelabra on top of the mantle. He proceeded to blow up the candelabra with the .38 bullet blasting out of the barrel, shattering a brick in the fireplace right behind where the candle sticks had been.
Following one of the few expletives I had ever heard Dad utter, he set down the gun and counted the five shells on the table where he was sitting. All five were there.
Unfortunately, the pistol held six shots, and he had only removed five of them.
After what was probably a minute but seemed like forever, Dad raised up and stated, “I just wanted to show you what can happen with a loaded gun. These are not toys; they are deadly. Don’t ever point a gun and anyone or anything you don’t want to shoot.”
With that said, he got up, stormed up to his room and put that gun away. We never did see that gun for about two years.
Much to Dad’s chagrin, that episode was brought up on each successive Christmas morning until the kids were all out of the nest.
It wasn’t until years after the Shootout at 1700 Wood Ave. that we all found out that it cost Dad several hundred dollars to fix the hole in the chimney. It had to be fixed because smoke used to pour into the living room whenever a fire was lighted in the fireplace.
Then we learned that the beautiful candelabra that Dad blew up was valued at several hundred dollars because the actual candle holders were 18 karat gold and the candelabra was solid sterling silver, handed down from his grandparents.
We used to joke about the whole incident every year. But Dad never said another word and would not look very happy when the subject was brought up.
Not a single word did he utter.
Cris and I spent two hours on Saturday night driving all around Meeker taking photos of decorated houses or businesses to put in the paper. Overall, there are really quite a few homes and businesses in town that are well decorated and an even larger number that have some decorations.
Getting a photo of Christmas lights that is high-enough quality to put into a newspaper is quite tough.
Newspapers have evolved to the point that color is pretty much an everyday event. Twenty years ago, it sometimes took three days to 1. take the photo; 2. get the mail to deliver the photo and for the printing plant to separate the color into red, yellow, cyan (a blue) and black film to produce a color separation. Now it’s done instantly and electronically.
So, needless to say, in this day and age, lights just don’t make for a good photograph. The more lights and more concentrated area of lights are best because if you use a flash for a lights photo, the flash is so bright, it washes out the color. And if you don’t use a flash, the intensity of the colored bulbs makes a big difference or your hand-held photos take so long to expose, the print looks like you were trying to hold the camera steady on a roller coaster—particularly if it is snowing, like it was Saturday and Sunday nights.
Anyway, thanks from all of us to those who did go to the trouble of decorating their homes. There are a number of businesses and homes in Meeker and Rangely featured in today’s edition of the Herald Times. There will most likely be more next week.
But folks in both towns spent a lot of time, money and energy into illuminating their homes and businesses, and that bit of Christmas spirit really makes a difference, I believe, in the mood and feeling of the holidays.
The next two issues of the Herald Times will be dated Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 although the paper will go to press 24 hours early. That means that all deadlines are moved up by 24 hours.
The deadlines for advertising in the Dec. 25 and the Jan. 1 editions will be 5 p.m. on the previous Friday and the deadline for all editorial is 5 p.m. on Sunday, with the exceptions being breaking news events and obituaries, which will have a deadline of 10 a.m. Monday.
This is so the press crew, which works out of the printing plant in Edwards, can spend their Christmas and New Year’s days with their families.