Tuesday, December 21, 2021

There Is Always Hope

Penelope and Santa

Before I start this story, let me just say to all of you that I'm sorry for not writing and posting anything new lately. Frankly, my friends, between my volunteer positions, taking care of my horses, maintaining our property, fulfilling my responsibilities at our local American Legion post, and helping Santa, this time of year is a little hectic. 

For those who didn't know, I've acted as Santa's helper for many years. And as most of you know, we here in tiny rural Glencoe, California, with our population of 189, only have a small Post Office and American Legion post. Our American Legion hall acts as our community center for everything from celebrations of life to baby showers, and much much more. It is a place where everyone is welcome and we really have a great time. That's especially true when Santa comes to visit us.

Santa decided to visit our tiny American Legion post here in the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills in 2009. He takes a few hours out of his busy schedule to return ever since. And yes, since we are at an elevation of 2,720 feet, give or take a few feet, we do have the chance of snow at Christmas. 

Each year, Santa arrives at the rustic hall to meet well-wishers and enjoy the greetings from neighbors and friends who have also brought their children. The children here are always amazed and joyed that Santa made it back again. This place is a berg that is a little more than a blink on the two-lane state highway. Most see Glencoe as a place they passed on the way to somewhere else. 

Frankly, many here are glad they are not stopping and want them to keep going. Many like how Glencoe has refused to conform to the hustle and bustle of cities. This bastion of rural America in California refuses to be something we are not. This is a place where a handshake still means a lot. It's where your word still means something. It's where who you are as a person is a lot more important than how much money you have in the bank. 

Of course, while the sportscar you would drive in the city may turn heads, up here you may get more of a nod of approval if your truck had a load of hay or your jeep looks as if you decided to play in the mud. And while dressing in expensive name-brand clothes might impress some in places like San Francisco, up here one's more impressed if they find out you filled your tag this deer season. Of course, unlike life in the city, we have our discussions about what makes the best all-around self-defense carry pistol. As for talking about who prefers what deer cartridge? Some will say it's the .308 while others will always believe that the tried and true .30-30 is the way to go. 

As for the local 4H Club for the kids, that's always of interest. When Santa gets to Glencoe, he hears a lot of requests for pigs, goats, horses, a lamb or two, a steer, and of course puppies -- preferably a good cow dog. As for asking the children up here if they "help at home?" The answer is always yes. Of course, if Santa has the time, he may be told exactly what chores are being done and by which sibling.

That was the scene at Glencoe's American Legion post this last Friday. Santa arrived. Yes, to the joy of all and the amazement of the children, he shook hands with neighbors and old friends who still couldn't believe that Santa had made it one more year. 

As he made his way to a chair positioned especially for him to meet the children, he lifted one child and then another, looked at Moms who took pictures with their cell phones, and then finally found his chair. 

Surprisingly, there were a lot of people there. And yes, many were new faces. As for children, Santa was surprised at how many were waiting for him. As for those hesitant to meet Santa, even 2-year old Penelope stepped forward with all smiles once Santa winked and asked, "Who's my pumpkin?" 

Her outstretched arms were a relief to Santa who saw the possibility of hysterics. That's not to say that the night did not have a couple of children who simply didn't want anything to do with Santa, his beard, red suit, or jingle bells. There were those who made their discomfort known loud and clear. Others who were not at all intimidated by Santa came forth happily. 

That was not the situation for a teenager who was coaxed by friends to take a picture with Santa. I watched as her friends encouraged her to come over to where Santa was sitting in front of a Christmas tree. Finally, she sat on my knee. 

Over the years, Santa has found that some children are comfortable talking to Santa while others are not. In the case where the latter is the situation, he tends to go directly to the big question. And yes, I was there when I heard him ask her, "So, what would you like for Christmas?" 

Remember, this is a place where country kids ask for dirtbikes, quads, or maybe a new saddle. It's a place where 4H kids want goats, pigs, horses, a lamb or two, and of course puppies. Instead of any of the above, the teenager said, "I want hope. There's just no hope these days." 

I listened and heard Santa tell the teen, "There's always hope. Always." 

Her reply was to simply look at him and shake her head no. 

For the rest of his visit, Santa met with the children and their parents but couldn't help but wonder why a teenager would feel so despondent about the future. Wanting to know why a young person would feel so bleak about life, he asked to talk to someone who knew her. And yes, it was then that he found out how the teen had recently experienced a tragedy in her family. She suffered a horrible loss that made her feelings of despair so understandable. 

Many there came because they wanted their children to see Santa. Most all were there with family and it made all feel good to see so many fill their hearts with the feeling of Christmas. All there were filled with joy. That is, except for one. That's what Santa was thinking about when he stood up and walked across the room and up to the teenager. He told her that he heard what happened. It was then that she hugged him.  

It was then that Santa told her, "We are all tougher than we know. God made us that way. We endure because that's what we do. What helps us endure and prevail is knowing that we're loved. Yes, just as you are loved by more than just those who are here tonight. And remember this, through hard times and sorrow, love gives us hope. Since we are loved, there's always hope. There is always hope."

She nodded yes, smiled, and said, "Merry Christmas, Santa." 

He nodded and said, "Merry Christmas to you too. You are loved."

As for me, while I watched this unfold, I thought about what I had seen. So now, believing that he is right, I wish for all of you, my readers, "A very Merry Christmas! May God Bless you and yours. May God grant you a Merry Christmas filled with love  ... and hope." 

Tom Correa

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Poem: A Logger’s Christmas Gift

For every logger out there, it’s Christmas every day
If you think about it…we drive a different kind of sleigh
Each day we cut down trees, it’s not just once a year
And as we limb them up it fills our hearts with cheer

Chokers are the garland, and bells, we have them, too
The guys out in the rigging are the decorating crew!
As they’re lifted in the air, they make a music all their own
The whistles from the yarder give out a cheery tone
The truckers gift wrap them with binders good and tight
Some trucks arrive real early, before the morning light
Loggers are a tough breed; we don’t get too sentimental
But with the trucker’s lights, it all looks so ornamental

We feel like Santa’s elves as we all do our fair share
To bring some Christmas spirit to your home throughout the year
If you think about it, loggers are gift-givers, for sure
New trees are planted quickly, so our forests will endure

With gratitude, we harvest this crop from the timberland
Providing packages of yuletide cheer for our fellow man
We wish you a “Merry Christmas!” as another one hits the ground
In the heart of every logger, the spirit of Christmas can be found.

Poem by Kala Cota

Wishing all you loggers and truckers out there a Very Merry Christmas and a safe and productive New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2021

An 1871 Christmas Poem

To My Young Folks in San Luis  

Great Santa Claus his missive thus doth send 

To Pepperman, his tried and trusty friend: 

Go thou into that part of my domain, 

In California’s land of gold and grain, 

San Luis named, his chosen bishopric, 

(And go about it on the double-quick), 

There have you my permission to dispense, 

On due return of dollars and of cents, 

To my young people, fair girls and bright boys, 

Unending store of deft and beauteous Toys; 

Dolls that can lisp out “mamma” and “papa,” 

And could, if needed, finger the guitar; 

Children of wood, who walk like flesh and blood, 

Arks such as Noah used in the Great Flood; 

Carts, Buggies, Phaetons, an endless train 

Such as, once lost, will not be seen again. 

Watches that twice a day, at least, are right, 

Swords, Guns and Pistols, good for boyish fight. 

Tools, Building Bricks, Boxes that hold a town, 

And Jacks, in boxes, that go up and down. 

Kaleidescopes, whose bright an beauteous hues 

Enchant the sense and drive away “the blues.” 

Whips, Tops, Drums, Balls and Bugles for the boys, 

Fit to make music, or to make a noise; 

Horses that go on rockers and on wheels, 

And Lady Dolls with chignon and high heels; 

Cups, Plates and Saucers from far-famed Cathay; 

And Yankee notions from the Break of Day; 

Chromos and Lithographs and Mouldings rare, 

And Looking-Glasses for the infant fair; 

Steamboats and Carriages and Railroad Cars, 

And many kinds of Statuette and Vase; 

Knives, not intended to cut youthful love, 

And animals, from Elephant to Dove; 

Helmets and Cradles, Birdcages and Baskets, 

Card Cases, Necklaces and Jewel Caskets; 

And let the Precious Metals there be seen, 

Mixed with the Diamond’s bright and glittering sheen, 

In endless form of Bracelet and of Ring, 

Of Button, Stud, of Earring and of Pin. 

Let not the Ruby nor the Emerald pale, 

The Jasper, Jet, nor Pearl nor Onyx fail, 

To lend their charms my CHRISTMAS TREE to grace, 

In that far off but still delightful place; 

For there, though cheerful snow forgets to fall, 

And ice responds not to the skaters call, 

Yet mirth and ease live out the live-long day, 

Eternal sunshine cheers the traveler’s way, 

And generous men and matrons join to plan 

With my best friend and subject, Pepperman, 

How best to pleasure every lad and lass, 

And glad the heart of good SAINT NICHOLAS. 

He will be there on Christmas Eve to see, 

The young folks gather round his Happy Christmas Tree. 

-- written by Max Pepperman

This poem was published in Max Pepperman's Christmas advertisements in California's San Luis Obispo Tribune in 1871.