Reflections on the Christmas season from 40 years ago in Louis Creek

The holiday season cannot be dampened by cold or mishap for local journalist back in 1984

By Winnifred Holt

I hope you all had as beautiful of a Christmas and New Year’s Day as I had.  Oh, as with all situations there were moments of sadness, of loneliness even in a crowd, and even moments of concern…all of which added dimensions to the experience.

Add the telling of it to you, dear friends, and it is a wonderful way to make sense out of my world, and find peace for my soul, as any writer will tell you if you ask.

In retrospect it isn’t the gifts you remember, but the warm fellowship of friends, the love of the family and the joy on the face of a child…even when the four-year-old rushes with wide open arms and says, “I love you Nana” in one breath and in the next says, “You’re funny Nana”.

There are the moments of concern when highways are slippery, and blowing snow doesn’t help the eyesight or, as with the new year, when it is bitterly cold. I know, I know, I’m the guy who says it can’t get too cold, you only put on more clothes.  I still say that; I have loved every day of it, but not every minute.

I had really planned to spend Friday, Dec. 28, [1984], till Wednesday, Jan. 2, [1985], at the cabin.  My friend who has been caretaking the past month chickened out when the cold weather came, and sought the warmth and friendliness of town.  I didn’t get away until Sunday.  First I took the car, the day before, to be serviced.  Lucky I did, the antifreeze tested out at -25° and it went down to -26° that night.

When I got to the bottom of the hill around noon, I found our genial highways crew had packed my driveway up to the cabin in solid.  It took an hour with a snicky little shovel to be able to back off the shoulder.

The cabin was in a state of suspended animation – even the vinegar and vanilla were frozen solid in the cupboard; that has never happened before.  I’m not saying it was never that cold before, maybe I never had vanilla or vinegar around in the winter before.

I worked until 2:30 a.m. on my desk and files.  Remember last year I made one resolution only – to get my desk in order.  Well, I sorted everything neatly, and threw away armfuls of paper (got such a good bed of ashes I was able to hold the fire all night by getting up every hour to put another block in;  I’ve never done that before either).  I need about two filing cabinets at the cabin, one in my town apartment and one at work, especially when I only remember where I put anything for three days!

The meadow didn’t have a track on it, the icicles hung from the eaves, and the snow was three feet thick on the woodshed roof.  I wanted to take some pictures for my boy in New Guinea who has never seen snow, and guess what?

The camera got stuck with a black window over it; I hope it isn’t forever!

I chopped a little wood and decided it was insane to stay longer than one night with the extreme cold; what if the car didn’t start!

I set out at noon Monday on snowshoes; the trip up had been uneventful, so away I went.

The trees fascinated me with all that snow clinging to them.  I forgot to look where I was going and found myself sitting down on the back of one snowshoe and my pack resting on the other; I’m not sure how I did that.

Since  I was down I decided to rest a bit.  I pondered on the possibility of a broken bone in such cold weather, but decided that I couldn’t crawl down and drag my pack, I’d leave the pack behind.

Hey, what’s with this negative thinking?  I tried to get up and found I couldn’t without taking off the snowshoes.  I slipped out of the pack straps, undid the snowshoes, and, after much difficulty, got loaded up again minus the snowshoes which I decided I didn’t really need, besides I had a nice wide path having made it coming up.

I should have made a trail as I only went a few feet when I stepped off the hard under-path with one foot and went in to my thigh.  Naturally  I was now a walking snowman.  I tried again with the same results.  Next time I didn’t try to hoist the pack, just hooked everything on to the snow shovel I had brought, and dragged the darn thing down the hill, not caring that every place snow could get into the pack, it did.

Gratefully I pulled up to the car.  It was overcast by now, which meant darkness would come sooner.  I’ll just start the motor and it can be warming up while I put things in the car, I thought.  RRR-urr-rr is all it said, softly dying.  Nothing else to do but flag down a car and hope he had jumper cables.

I put up the hood in anticipation – lucky I always back the car in.  A truck with young Livingstone, going to his folks’ place in Little Fort, came to my aid.  There was a nasty wind blowing and while he had cables they were not heavy duty, and in spite of the time and effort he put into it, nearly freezing as well, my car would simply not budge.

I went with him to Louis Creek Store.  Luckily Norm Dobbs was there, and willingly agreed to go home for his heavy-duty cables and to help me get going.  It still took a good half hour to get my poor little battery agreeable enough to take over.

I was grateful to be on my way.  My teeth were chattering all the way to town, but a hot bath and a jacked-up thermostat soon had me ship-shape again.  I think I’ll think twice before setting out again when it is cold.

A grand finale to the holidays was a relative and friend get-together at my aunt’s in town.  I’d never have believed I could tuck away so much food so close to the Christmas Feast! Delicious!

Next come the January blaahs for some people but not for me.  I shall cheerfully pay the bills as they come in, and thank God we live in a country where at least some of us can work, and help out the fellows who can’t.

My resolution this year is to finish my book.  I have put away my paints, put my house in order, and the book is the next thing on my agenda.

Keeping healthy, and of course happy, goes without saying, as well as squeezing every ounce of exciting experiences into the year that I possibly can.

So join me, friends, in making this the happiest year we have had for a long, long time!

This column by Winnifred Holt originally appeared in the North Thompson Journal on Tuesday, Jan.8 , 1985, and was titled ‘A moment of reflection’.

Winifred Holt wrote many “Time Out” columns that ran in the North Thompson papers from the early 70’s and well into the 80’s.

She passed away at a grand age in September of 2007.  Her obituary states, “…Winnie was a great many things to a multitude of people: in addition to the more traditional roles of wife and mother, she was an armed forces medic, entrepreneur, world traveller, outdoors enthusiast, professional cook, farmer, finish carpenter, poet, photographer, gardener, nurse, artist, journalist, massage therapist, and writer.

She threw herself into each project with unsurpassed passion and the results were always wonderful.

Many will remember her “Time Out” column she wrote for years for the North Thompson papers from her retreat on the mountain near Louis Creek.“