Sunday, December 12, 2010
On Tuesday, I shall do a post for Big T, because he is eighteen today, and, well... I'm overwhelmed, and don't have my thoughts in order, so I'm going to do something a little less maudlin (cause you know where that's going) and a little less sappy, and I"m going to entertain you with...
Going looking for a Christmas tree.
Now T's idea of what he wanted to do for today was very modest. Yesterday, we cleaned the house within an inch of its life and this morning, we left to go up to Forresthill (you know, Green's Hill country) to go find a Christmas tree.
We had the perfect place in mind. It's in the Tahoe National Forrest and is called Snowy Ridge Christmas Tree Farm. You go, you cut your tree down, you hike all over creation-- it's fun!
Well, as we were driving up there (it takes about 45 minutes from my folks' house) we couldn't help but notice that the snow was a little thicker than we were used to.
Usually, it's about a foot of slush, this time in December. In January or February, it can become impassible, but not before Christmas. This year, it was apparently deep enough to close down the farm!
We arrived, looked at the closed sign on the gate, and discussed the trees, peeping out of the big blanket of snow in the face of the sun like a bunch of herbivorous Whack-a-moles, and my mom said, "Hey-- I know I saw some signs for some smaller places as we came up. Let's go try one of those."
Which is how we ended up at Holly Ridge.
Holly Ridge was precipitated by a big, hand-Sharpied sign in the pine foliage that said, 8ft and under, $30, and then other, similar signs pointing us down a one-lane private road. Then, a couple of other big pieces of poster paper that pretty much said the following:
4 Wheel Drive Only.
Owner appears every hour (or so) to ferry you down the driveway. (And back.)
I am not kidding about the (and back) part on the sign.
Well, we took one look at it, and thought, "Uhm, the family crapmobile is NOT up to this road!" and my parents said, "Our big diesel thing is NOT up to this road!" and then the owner appeared.
Meet Burke. Burke is an incredibly sweet man, who peers through life with a wonderful, brandy-fumed equanimity, and the thickest glasses I have ever seen. Burke and his wife own Holly Ridge, they took it over about seven years ago, learned the ins and outs of the business, and is right spiffy piloting a 4x4 truck down a road with the consistency of jello in a blender.
*shudder* I got the front seat view, both ways. (No seat belt.) My family--mom, dad, their dog, Max, my husband, three of the four kids (Chicken chose to sleep in the back of the crapmobile--we picked her up from a slumber party to go get the tree) were in the back. Yup, there they were... getting jounced up and down like popcorn in a hot iron skillet. We got to our destination--a mile of the sloppiest dirt road I have *ever* seen, and my parents popped out, smiling, the kids jumped out going "Whee!" and my mom asked, "Did we have to pay extra for the E-ticket ride?"
I was not so cheerful. I actually SAW the gushy hills and gulleys that the truck had to pull through, and I actually FELT the damned thing fishtailing all over the place, and I actually KNEW that he was speeding up in order to get through some transportational horror that you couldn't take a horse through, and you SHOULDN'T take a motor vehicle through. My eyes were big, and my face was a little pale, and I thought, "We have to go back on that road!"
Not right away though. First we hunted down a Christmas tree (we let Big T pick--it's a little short, but still a very pretty tree!) and then we sat at the bonfire, made some powdered cider and some cocoa, and roasted some marshmallows. Then Burke took another shot of brandy, threw my folks and my oldest son in the back of the truck with the trees, and disappeared for half-an-hour.
When he got back, he had some more intrepid customers (does EVERYONE ON THE PLANET have four wheel drive?) and he needed to deal (pleasantly and sweetly--always) with them. Some of them were friends from work, everybody was family, and even though my small people were going compulsively ape-shit with the boredom of waiting without anything shiny to occupy them, I could not help but admire his unfailing generosity. No lie--the guy even had treats for the folks who brought their dogs. (He seemed a little hurt that Max eschewed his dog treat, but apparently Max is that rarity among golden labs--the dog that doesn't like treats and is content with his aesthetically healthy mix of kibble and canned.)
This guy seemed to be everyone's friend, and he looked forward to Christmas tree season because people came from all over the state to get their trees from this place and visit him (and apparently his wife) like long lost family. Damn--seriously--what a cool job!
Anyway, he got some coffee, another shot of brandy (and for those of you freaking out over the guy driving, all I can tell you is that if I had to drive that road eight, ten, twelve times a day, I'd need a snort of brandy too--the cajones you need to look a red-mud-Jello-hill in the eye and gas the goddamned truck just do not always come naturally, you know?) Anyway, away we jounced. On the ride home with Mate, he said the most surreal thing of the entire ride was that sometimes, right before it got REALLY hairy, he could swear he heard someone calling, "Hang on!"
"Oh yeah," I told Mate. "That was him. He did it about three times each way. You don't want to know what the road looked like before he did that."
Mate shuddered. Then I told him that we were lucky we escaped Deborah's curve--apparently, Burke's wife grew up in North Dakota, but even she needed to be dug out once in a while. My mind boggles. Just simply boggles. But as Burke pulled away (after my mom paid him the right amount of money because he didn't charge them enough, and he did a very charming "exact change" dance in the driveway) I thought that this guy wouldn't be doing anything else with his time.
Good--that much general niceness should be rewarded by a gently happy life.
We stopped at "The Ore Cart" on the way home for hamburgers. Uhm...
Dayum. For those of you who don't know, Forresthill, California is "gold country"--one of the places that was built up as scads of idiots unhappy with their 1849 dayjobs came herding into country with dangers they were TOTALLY unprepared for in order to maybe make a little bit of gold dust with backbreaking labor--you know, sort of like 19th century day-trading with more chance of death and a much slimmer chance at hygiene.
Anyway, "The Ore Cart" is so named, because the barbecue is made out of AN HONEST TO CHRIST ORE CART from 1852. No shit nor shinola. There was a little "History" of the building on the menu (a very basic menu--most of us ordered the hamburger the size of our heads, the little kids got grilled cheese, and Chicken got pastrami. Wise Chicken--the hamburger may have been the size of my head, but it was twice as big as my stomach. Even though T ate a quarter of it, half of it was still too much!) Part of the history told us that the building--triple layered brick with a layer of sod on the roof-- was the only structure to survive the gold rush, after the entire town burnt down THREE TIMES. The booth backs and seats used to be the shelves--which were made so well, they didn't need a nail. And there were three tunnels to the building.
See, it used to be a stop on the Wells Fargo route, and the guy who ran it was very aware of the total lawlessness of the area. One of the tunnels led from his house to the the building, to stay safe from thieves. One of the tunnels ran from the front of the building to the mine belonging to the guy who built it. And one of the tunnels ran from the front of the building to the brothel across the street. *smirk* No shit, no shinola. I LOVE stories like this!
Anyway--at last, at last, we got home with our tree, everyone took a food-coma, and then we woke up and decorated. Tomorrow, I'll show you some pictures of that, although, given Steve's proclivities, it's bound to all look JUST LIKE THIS
And now? Off to write some more Marcus/Phillip fic... but I gotta tell you, it really is shaping up to novella length!