Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

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Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Ranger52899 on Mon Dec 24, 2018 12:00 pm

6



 

 

 

24th December

 

 

They left the swiss chalet hotel early, shortly before seven am while the light was still coming up outside.

The ploughs had been through overnight, the roads were salted and clear, and more or less empty at this hour, although the snow was piled high by the side of the road. The sky was grey but clear and dry, a drive thru was open for coffee and muffins, and at a steady, careful pace they took the last leg of the journey out of Casper, first to Shoshone and through the reservation.

The snow piles by the sides of the road grew steadily higher as the territory around them began to look more and more like home. The landscape became rockier, steeper and undulating as they moved towards the mountains. Long stretches of open land were white instead of green, but to Dale it was familiar and wonderful. It was a little after eleven am when they turned into the drive way under the snow capped wooden sign that read Falls Chance Ranch. Someone had been down the track with their own plough this morning; it was newly cleared. Flynn bumped slowly over the snow track, until the paddocks came into view and horses in thick coats began to come to the fence to watch them pass. Hired cars were parked in a line clustered along the paddocks, the sign the house was busy. And then Flynn turned the car into the yard and hit the horn, the corral horses came to lean over the rail, and several people appeared from the house, running down the steps.

Dale unfastened his seat belt, got out of the car into the familiarity of the yard and Riley reached him first, catching him strongly but far more gently than he usually would.

“Finally! Some ‘in and out’ that was.”

“It wasn’t the plan.” Dale admitted, hugging him hard. Riley’s face and hands were cold, he was obviously fresh from work and he would have started early this morning, and having been missing him for days it was hard to let him go.

“What can you see?” Riley grabbed his head gently between his hands, looking hard at his face. “How bad is it now?”

“Ri, take it gently and don’t hassle him.” Jasper put an arm around Riley’s waist, dropping a kiss on his cheek, and went on to Paul who was waiting at the foot of the steps.

“I can see you, I can see pretty much everything except reading print, I could make out the road signs this morning. It’s almost gone, it’s fine.” Dale grasped Riley’s wrists, letting him look. Riley gently touched the healing graze on his forehead.

“It’s so small to have caused all this.”

“It’s over now. Anyone left to collect today?”

“Nope, we’re done. Everyone came ahead of the weather, we’ve had a full house since yesterday afternoon. We were just waiting for you before we went to get the tree this morning.”

“You’re not dragging Dale out into the woods through heavy snow.” Flynn said definitely, hugging Riley tight enough to lift him off his feet. “Hey halfpint. We’re keeping the house quiet and the racket to a minimum, he isn’t up to it.”

“Has he been like this the whole time?” Riley demanded of Dale, but he hugged Flynn hard, both arms locked around his neck.  

Several people were pulling their bags out of the trunk. Dale recognised Bear and Jake among them, but tactfully they were hanging back, letting the five of them have a few minutes between themselves and Dale appreciated it. Paul met Dale’s eyes as Dale looked for him, and held out his arms.

 

 

 

The fire was blazing in the hearth in the family room, and was well built up with thick logs that would take all day to burn. In Paul’s lap, since Paul clearly didn’t plan to let him go any time soon, Dale held on to him and drank tea, blessedly proper tea. Across from them, Gerry was perched on the arm of the sofa beside Ash, and Theo was on the arm of the armchair Bear was occupying since if they tried it the other way around the chair tipped over. Luath was on the couch with Ash. Darcy was sitting on the hearth beside Jasper, who had pulled Riley into his lap, his arms folded around Riley’s waist. The older members of the family were gathered in their usual favourite place, the study, and were tactfully staying out of the way, and more of the family, led by Peter, had taken over the morning stock work in unusual numbers, apparently keen for a walk in the snow. From the unusually calm and peaceful atmosphere in the house, Dale would have been prepared to hazard a guess that the Tops had banded together this morning and established some firm ground rules about noise. Jake leaned on the back of the couch behind them, and Tom, dressed as Jake was in lined pants and a soft shell fleece sweater, cold weather gear that said they’d spent plenty of time outside this morning and planned to spend a good deal more there yet, took a seat at the far end of the hearth, giving Dale a brief and very private nod with his dark eyes.

Good morning.

Hello.

“You’re tired.” Paul rubbed a hand down Dale’s arm, watching his face which he was doing a lot. “What was the Casper hotel like?”

“Loud.” Flynn said shortly. Having put the hired car out of the way in the line with the others, and taken a quick look around the corral at the horses and the pasture to check on the stock, his cheek bones were wind chilled scarlet and he took a seat next to Paul, wrapping his hands around a cup of tea.

“Only downstairs.” Jasper corrected. “We were fine up in the room, the bed was comfortable, and we left before it had a chance to get loud again this morning. There was some kind of party going on downstairs when we arrived yesterday, it was more than we needed to handle.”

“If you’d have let me hike out with you,” Riley grumbled at him, “You’d have had more pairs of hands to help,”

“And it would have been louder and busier.” Flynn finished for him.

“You’re no fun.”

“On iced roads in heavy snow, no.”  

“Is anyone coming to get this tree?” Bear inquired. Jasper got up, taking Riley with him.

“We are. Ri, let’s get Boris.”

“If we don’t take all three of them Petra’s going to sulk.” Riley warned him. “She loves making this trip. Dale, coming?”

“No.” Paul said with finality, over the top of Flynn’s equally definite “No.”

“I’m coming.” Darcy got up and Luath joined him.

“Me too. Jake?”

“We’re in.” Jake held out a hand to Tom. Someone had tipped off the group in the study; men were starting to gather in a large crowd in the kitchen to sort out coats and boots. Tom got up off the hearth a little warily. This was the house very full of family and the first time he’d ever handled this much of them at once. And the first time he’d ever been here for Christmas. Dale thought it was likely the first time he’d been in any home for Christmas in his entire adult life. The whites of his eyes were visible, but he leaned abruptly over the back of the couch and roughly kissed Dale’s cheek.

Audentes Fortuna iuvat.”

“Ignis aurum probat.” Dale advised him.

Tom gave him a brief grin, taking Jake’s hand. “Quae semper.”

“Finish that tea and come have a bath.” Paul said to Dale. “I want you properly warm and wearing something a lot more comfortable, and then you’re taking the rest of today very easy. Flynn, are you treeing?”

“No, a bath sounds good to me too.” Flynn drained his own mug and took Dale’s empty one. “We’ve been kicking around hotel rooms for days, I want a wash in something that isn’t a barrel or a frozen bathroom block on the prairie.”

It was the first year since he’d come to the ranch that Dale had seen Flynn not head out with the party to cut the tree.

“I’m fine with Paul,” he said to Flynn, “I could find my way around the house with no vision at all and it’s not as if I’m going to get two minutes on my own to get into difficulties anyway,”

“Too right you’re not,” Paul agreed cheerfully. “I haven’t seen you in a week.”

“And you love getting the tree. If I can’t go then you should. It’s important.”

“Other people have that covered for us this morning. I trust them.” Flynn stooped down and kissed him, firmly. “We’ll manage.”

 

 

 

            A long soak in the bath, after which Paul refused to let him put on anything except pyjamas and a sweatshirt which confirmed exactly how Paul planned on him spending the rest of the day, did leave Dale feeling considerably more human. By the time Paul settled him on the couch with another mug of tea and a plate of the running buffet that was occupying the kitchen and feeding the large amounts of men gathered in the house, Bear was setting up a very large tree by the fireplace with Jasper’s help, and Gerry, Darcy and Niall together were gently unwrapping and laying out the decorations from their box under the attic stairs.

They decorated the tree together, or rather a small crowd did with critical commentary from those watching about exactly where each piece was positioned. It was a ritual Dale loved, from each individual ornament, particularly the ones David had carved, to the teasing and cheerful bickering about the position of each one and the aesthetic effect of it all. Flynn handed Dale the paper bag from the fair at Fort Kearney, and Paul helped unwrap the clove balls and the twig stars with delight, adding them to the tree. When it was decorated, Flynn turned out the lights in the family room and Paul lit the many candles along the mantel and around the hearth in amongst the swathes of greenery there, and the room took on a gentle, easy light that was softer on the eyes. They were keeping the house unusually quiet, this evening was far calmer than usual when the family got together.

They gathered around the family room – and study and kitchen and a few hardy souls were out on the porch by the Christmas lights in the snow – awaiting the evening broadcast of the carol service from Kings College, and Dale saw Riley take out something rolled from under the coffee table and lay it out. He knelt in front of it by Dale, and Gerry, coming to help him, took a couple of logs from the log basket to hold the edges down.

“I know you can’t read this,” Riley said to Dale, “Don’t try and strain your eyes, this is a map of the Oregon trail. Niall and Darcy sketched it out from what you told us about it and from the books in the study – they did a beautiful job, Darce draws like an artist.”

“Thank you.” Darcy took a seat on the floor beside him, putting several pencils down on the paper. “It’s all the drawing out of stage designs. We were trying to mark out Sarah’s route, but there’s a lot of gaps.”

“Do you know where she started from?” Gerry said hopefully. “We have this kind of space over here marked ‘Wisconsin’ but it seems a bit vague in a ‘here be dragons’ kind of a way.”

“Green Bay.” Dale resisted the urge to squint at the map and make some of it out. “Start from Green Bay. Then come south and south west to Council Bluffs, that’s where they joined the trail itself.”

“And Council Bluffs is where she showed you Clay.” Bear brought a plate over to sit on the hearth stone near Gerry. A small crowd of family was assembling around the map. “That’s the supply town.”

“Don’t look so shocked, darling.” Gerry said gently to Dale. “We’ve all of us known Sarah, long before you found out her name for us. Niall and Wade knew where her wagon was when they were younger than any of us are now, she’s always been part of the ranch. Philip and David would have loved to have known this stuff as much as we do.”

“Green Bay.” Darcy was sketching carefully. “Although I’m guessing some kind of fishing hamlet on the lake rather than the town itself.”

“Yes, the town wasn’t there yet. The trail starts officially from Independence, Missouri, and comes up through Kansas into Nebraska. Sarah’s family came down through what would have been the Minnesota territory to reach it at Council Bluffs. Then from there, through the good ground to Fort Kearney. The desert starts there. trail follows the Platte River across the plains, the points where they crossed the river were important. Most of time her family just forded it with their train, but up by Fort Laramie she’d have seen the first of the ferries operating.”

“And Fort Kearney is where Sarah knew Jesse.”

“Yes. I think he was probably with her train. I don’t know if he started out with them or joined them on the way, or who he belonged to.”

“And Reid.” Riley added. “Poor kid, the one hanging around the fort. Then Fort Kearney to Ash Hollow. The steep drop to lower the wagons down and the fresh water springs. That’s where Hannah was.”

“And Ash Hollow to Fort Laramie.” Niall knelt stiffly on the other side of the table, taking up another pencil. “Which wasn’t Fort Laramie, but Fort John at the time, and right on the curve of the river here. I’ve seen sketches of it. Then the steep way up towards Shoshoni and on to us, and Three Traders.”

And as she left Three Traders, just before the crossing place at the river, a wagon had fallen and Sarah’s journey had ended. No one said it but it hung in the air.

“We don’t know who the other one is,” Darcy leaned on the table, his voice soft. “Dale, have you any idea? There are two little graves in that hollow, we’ve always assumed two children.”

Dale shook his head. “I’ve seen her in the woods with another child once or twice, a little boy. I know Sarah had a little brother. But it might be she just plays in our woods with other kids we know nothing about yet – thousands of children must have passed over our land. It might even be Clay or Jesse or Hannah down there with her, except I think they were particular friends she remembered and wanted to meet again.”

“Is that what you helped her with?” Riley asked shrewdly.  

“I think I less helped than got put firmly to good use.” Dale said ruefully. “Not that I minded.”

Later, with Riley alone, Dale would tell him about David, that David had been there for every child, but with these men who had known and loved David in person, he was never comfortable talking casually about him in this way. It seemed unkind.

“What did they do about Christmas in her time?” Bear’s deep voice said curiously.

“Not much.” Niall said with regret. “James was talking about it last night. There was nothing on the trail at all in winter anyway, it wasn’t passable most of the time for wagons, but in Sarah’s time, the 1840s, Queen Victoria hadn’t made modern Christmas fashionable yet. There weren’t trees or much around gifts, it wasn’t much of a thing.”  

Jake leaned on the back of the sofa, stooping to hook an arm around Dale’s neck and give him a gentle hug. With the obvious unspoken agreement of do not crowd round the man with the head injury, people kept doing this. Quietly coming to say their personal hello to him in their own time.

“If the kids hang around the yard or the pasture at all tonight they’re going to notice the porch and wonder what’s going on. Space shuttles must pass overhead and wonder what’s going on.”

“It looks good, you leave the porch alone.” Gerry told him severely. “Tom, make him behave. And turn up the radio, the carol service is due any minute now. Is it something you’ve listened to before? The Kings College service?”

“No. When I lived in England I mostly attended the real thing at home.” Tom turned up the radio which was explaining the shipping forecast for the English channel at present, and then he came to sit on the hearth, looking down at the map with the rest of them. “The cathedral was beautiful at Christmas. Where’s Windlass Hill in relation to Ash Hollow? We couldn’t figure out how close the two were.”

 

 

 

 

 

            The family always stayed up until midnight on Christmas Eve. It was an evening for spending together, for stories and talking by the tree and waiting to see Christmas begin. On this Christmas Eve however, Paul and Flynn were adamant that Dale went upstairs to bed almost immediately after the end of the carols. Dale listened to Flynn ruthlessly fend off Riley, Gerry and several other family members on the landing who were attempting to come and visit him. Paul closed the door on them all, lay on Flynn’s side of the bed, and for a while Dale lay there in his arms which was wonderful in itself, listening to the familiar sounds of Paul’s breathing, and of the home pasture beyond the open window, in a bed he knew intimately well.

“Don’t you think,” Paul said conversationally after a while, and his fingers were sliding gently and rhythmically through Dale’s hair, “you’re ever leaving me at home again while you go and get concussed in a shipyard. If Flynn wants to come on your business trips too he can, but I won’t care if the meeting involves actual bloodshed. If you’re going to be around explosions and getting stuck in awful hotels, I’m going to be there.”

“I spent a lot of the time wishing you were.” Dale said rather shamefacedly. He felt Paul’s hard kiss against his forehead.

“I spent a lot of time wishing I was too. I’m glad you’re home. Are you worried about your vision, honey? What are you thinking about that?”

“Not much at all. It was a bit alarming how much the racket at the ski lodge rattled everything, I understand now what Flynn told me about chaotic neurotransmission. It isn’t handling complex information well yet but it’s settling down fast.”

“I want it settled down completely before you try to read, and we’re going to take that appointment with the neurologist at Jackson to be sure. What level has Flynn had you on?”

Dale sighed. “We never got higher than two. Although I had Flynn with me the whole time, and Jasper too from Ash Hollow onwards. I didn’t have the space to get stressed in.”

“According to Flynn, you worked hard on staying calm and doing everything he asked of you despite everything, and you gave Sarah all the attention you could. He’s very proud of you. We all are. I know how hard it is for you to cope with changes of plan like that, it takes a lot of effort to handle. Although it sounds like it ended up being a trip you wouldn’t have wanted to miss.”

No. Certainly not. Dale thought about it, knowing Paul valued this information as much as he did. They’d shared many of the history books Dale had devoured on the subject.

“So many wagons came over our land. I knew it in theory, I’ve seen the pictures, I’ve read everything in the museum at Jackson, but to stand on the trail and see the places they came through, to know what the river crossings were like, how steep the hills were, what the trading posts were like, what the water was like, how far they had to go between each stopping point - not to read about it but to…”

“See it and feel it.” Paul finished when he trailed off. “Yes, I bet that was powerful stuff. It seems to have made quite an impression on you and Flynn both. Do you know why Flynn is stuffing jeans in the bin by the way?”

“They’re the ones he bought in Kearney, we were a bit short on clean clothes.”

“Oh wait for it.” Paul said dryly. “He says he can’t ride in them?”

“How did you guess?” Dale said, straight faced. Paul burst out laughing and hugged him.

“I knew it! Oh I know, he was looking after you and he had his hands full at the time. I won’t tease him. Much.”

 

 

 

 

25th December

 

 

            Plenty of people always went out on Christmas morning to help with the stock work. The older members of the family got up more slowly, but the house was full and busy, and while the amiable battles and waits for the bathroom and the crowd in the kitchen for the large brunch took place, Flynn kept Dale in bed with him.

“I am sleeping fine,” Dale pointed out to him when Flynn pulled him back down and made it clear they weren’t getting up yet. “I’m eating fine, I have been since we went out to Wisconsin.”

“With effort at times, understandably, but yes.” Flynn agreed.

Dale turned over, rather grouchily settling on his chest. “No withholding anything, no panic attacks, no compulsions,”

“I agree. You’ve handled things extremely well.”

“Which is a level four. Three at the outside.”

“Head injury.” Flynn said without heat.

“Which is fine, and pretty much fixed.”

“Head injury.” Flynn pulled him closer to kiss him. “We’re home so I’m fine with a level three, where you always are when the house is this busy. It’s well deserved, and you’re still not getting up, or charging about this morning. There isn’t anything you could try harder with, this isn’t is about you being stressed. This is about concussion. You’re taking today quietly, without crowds or noise. That’s the end of it.”

“It’s Christmas.”

“Your brain chemistry doesn’t care.”

Grrr. This was one of the admittedly very few downsides of falling desperately in love with a severely over protective Top. And of scaring him half to death in Wisconsin.

They showered and shaved together when it was quiet upstairs, and it was long past eleven when they came down to the kitchen. This morning Dale could make out some of the numbers on the grandfather clock by the stairs, and see most of the detail in the photographs on the mantel; while moving too fast still made things blur it was fading to the point he could move around the house, the kitchen, even find what Paul asked for in the pantry without thinking twice. He and Flynn were eating and watching Paul clear the table when the rush of people who had been out to do the stock work poured up the porch and came into the kitchen. Wade was among them, loudly and cheerfully pointing out that if Riley felt he could park the tractor any better then he was welcome to try, and Darcy, tripping headlong over several boots in the doorway, told Bear in some detail where boots ought to be.

“Stop the racket right now, you’re not doing this around Dale today.” Paul ordered, going to help Darcy up. “Bear, move those boots before someone breaks their necks.”

“They’re not my boots,” Bear protested, his eyes going wide. “I didn’t put them-”

“Anyone could park the tractor better than that, it’s going to take a twenty five point turn to get it out of the door again,” Riley said over the top of Bear. Wade’s snort was loud and disgusted.

“Right. Come outside, right now, and I’ll count. It’ll be a three point turn at the most.”

“Do you know the turning circle on that thing?”

“Both of you outside.” Flynn ordered, getting up. He herded them towards the door, impeded by Bear still arguing about boots and large enough that no one was getting past him, and Darcy, complaining about people who left boots laying around in an attempt to break people’s ankles.

Entertained, Dale glanced up as a hand lightly rested on his arm. It was Niall. He signalled to Dale with little more than a raise of his eyebrows to be quiet, his eyes were dancing in a way that was most inviting, and as Wade began to list his tractor driving credentials and Bear began to protest again that they weren’t his boots anyway, Niall quietly drew Dale out into the hallway.

“Flynn, I’m getting Dale somewhere quieter.”

That sounded far more innocent than Niall looked. Curious, Dale went with him. Niall guided him swiftly around towards the front door. Tom, dressed in heavy outdoor gear, was waiting on the porch with Dale’s boots, coat and hat.

“Quick,” Niall said, letting them out onto the porch and closing the front door very softly behind them. “Get dressed and let’s get out of here. We’re kidnapping you. Merry Christmas.”

Well that sounded like a wholly reprehensible and highly interesting idea.

Dale sat down on the bench by the front door and rapidly pulled his boots and coat on. Further down the porch, Gerry and ‘Lito were loudly shovelling snow from the steps which provided helpful cover from anyone passing in the yard, and ‘Lito caught Dale’s eye and grinned. Riley nipped past them around the side of the house, taking Dale’s arm.

“Warm enough? Come on.”

Niall rapidly donned his own outside gear and Gerry and Lito abandoned the shovels and came to join them. In a group of stetsoned and heavy coated brats, all of whom from a distance would look very much the same, they crossed the yard and reached the pasture unchallenged. Horses were waiting there, tacked up and curious since they’d been out once already this morning to do the stock work. Dale took Hammer’s reins from the fence rail, taking a moment to rub his nose, having spent a week away from him. Hammer shoved his head hard into Dale’s chest in welcome and snorted, nudging until Dale pulled his ears.

“Do you feel ok to ride?” Riley said discreetly to Dale. “I’ll come with you on Hammer if you’re not sure.”

There was no one safer to ride than Hammer. Dale found the stirrup and pulled himself up, with a rush of joy in the day, the snow, the company, Hammer beneath his hands and being extremely and outrageously bad in a way he should not have been enjoying nearly so much. Although not even Flynn could deny that it was beautifully and peacefully quiet out here in the open pasture. Perfect for people with head injuries.   

“I’m fine. Where are we going?”

“Well we thought we probably ought to spring you before you went stir crazy.” Gerry, mounting Flint, moved over to help Niall climb the fence and reach Nekkid’s saddle. On his other side, Tom had competently mounted up on Moo. “Way too many Tops in the house. Besides which there’s something we think you ought to see. Shall we get out of here before Flynn notices where you’re not?”

Riley pulled Snickers in beside Hammer, staying close, and they walked the horses fast down the length of the paddock rail which took them well away from sight of the ranch windows before they turned out into the open home pasture. A couple of miles out into the pasture they saw Boris and Petra, two of the big shire horses, cantering towards them through the thick snow with the white flakes flying from their massive feet. Darcy and Bear were riding them and Riley and the others drew in to let them catch up.

“Anyone notice we’d gone?” Gerry demanded. Bear shook his head, grinning at Dale from under the brim of his Stetson.

“No, no one’s noticed a thing yet. Wade isn’t coming, he covered us getting away, but he’s doing a good job.”

Someone had thought to dig the cairn out of the snow and to clear the space around it. It stood this morning like a frozen beacon. Nearby, the lake was iced over and birds walked on its surface, dusted with blown snow, but the river was still moving as they reached the crossing place, and the horses waded patiently through.

It was warmer amongst the trees. Walking the horses – which they had done all the way, Dale suspected Riley was keeping their pace right down on purpose to avoid jolting him – they went a short way down the path before Riley turned Snickers and waited. This was one of the main paths through the wood that they rode all the time, it was wide and the trees edging it were mostly the aspens that grew freely here, their tall, thin white trunks like pillars. The thin branches rose from the trunks at angles rather like a stark Christmas tree, short and angular and closely clustered. On one of the largest trees beside the trail – Dale looked harder, startled. And then deeply, seriously touched. From the lower branches, maybe from six feet up to about two feet from the ground, small toys hung, tied to the branches with red ribbon. Several small wooden trains. Several rag dolls in delicate dresses. Painted soldiers. Wooden horses. A toy drum with its beater attached to the drum with ribbon. A little xylophone with a beater also hanging beside it. And five wooden stars, each one with a name carefully painted on and varnished for waterproofing. Hannah. Reid. Jesse. Clay, and Sarah.

“You’re going to think we’re mad,” Gerry said conversationally, “But Bear and Riley and I went into Jackson the day before yesterday and raided one of the toy shops, and Bear made the stars. It seemed… only right. Under the circumstances.”

Oh it was right. Dale slid down from Hammer’s saddle to go to the tree, running his fingers lightly over one or two of the toys. The carving and varnishing of the stars was very much Bear’s work, Dale knew his style: there were door panels on the ranch that looked like this, but these were truly beautiful. Carefully, lovingly shaped and sanded to perfect smoothness, and the lettering of the painted names was Darcy’s delicate looping handwriting, the kind he put in Christmas and birthday cards. Dale looked up to find Bear, swallowing on the warmth of the smile Bear gave him. Riley had dismounted too. Dale felt Snickers huff against his shoulders and Riley reached past him to straighten one of the trains. Wooden toys. Things that a child of 1848 would recognise. That had Riley’s touch all over it. Unable to say anything at all, Dale put an arm around his waist and Riley returned the hug.

“Do you need to do anything for them to be able to find it? I know you see Sarah most often at the crossing place and by the lake, we thought this was a private spot nearest to her favourite places. Just don’t get cold for pete’s sake, we’re probably all in enough trouble.”

The energy coming off this little group in the woods, men of every generation from this household, was warm and bright and Dale could feel it lifting and pulling on him. Their emotion, their shared care and intention, their thought for her created that energy and it was painted all over this tree. If Dale let his eyes slide out of focus and looked, it was around every toy Riley and the others had handled and hung here. It shone. Like the bright energy of Sarah herself all the way across the snow blown prairie from Wisconsin, lighting up each place they stopped.

“She’ll have no trouble finding this.” Dale said with conviction. “She’ll feel it from miles away.”

“What’s funny?” Riley said under his breath to them as Dale explored the tree. “You’re trying not to laugh, I can see you doing it.”

“Do you know what the Oregon Way is?” Dale gently straightened one of the little dolls.

“Of course I do. The trail. You just came down it.” Riley gave him a sideways look, somewhat concerned. “I thought you were over the concussion?”

“No. Not the trail, the way. It was something Philip believed in. I’ll explain another time. But it’s…” Dale looked again at the tree. “…perfect. You’re doing it well.”

 

 

 

 

He and Riley walked their way out of the woods, leading Snickers and Hammer. It was mostly for the sheer pleasure of walking through the snowy woods on Christmas morning, although the others, who lacked a mounting block or fence, were older and who didn’t put the regular practice in on climbing up on some fairly tall horses, didn’t take the risk of getting down. They rode, slowly in a group, walking the horses through the snow to the crossing place. Dale stood there with Riley, watching the horses walk through the flowing water one by one ahead of them.

Across the pasture, on the frozen lake, five children were kneeling on the ice, peering with fascination through to the water beneath. Dale recognised each small face. Sarah looked up at him, and her smile was blazing.

“They’re here, aren’t they?” Riley said softly behind him, noticing where he was gazing. Dale gave him a discreet nod.

“Yes. All of them.”

Four of them had never set foot on ranch land in their lifetimes. This had always been Sarah’s place to visit and play, but the guests she had brought home seemed to be enjoying themselves here.

He and Riley mounted up and walked the horses across the crossing place and into the snowy pasture, joining the crowd of other brats of all ages who waited for them. Niall, thin but upright in the saddle, who had known these woods when Philip was young and he and David were still building the house. Bear and Gerry and Riley who had been so young here, not much more than boys. Darcy, who was as good at secrets as anyone else on this ranch. ‘Lito, Tom and himself, from another continent, also travellers. Strangers made welcome on this layered land that welcomed the brave, the determined, the adventurous, whoever they were.

As they crossed the pasture and headed home, Dale saw the children cross the river over the shallow crossing place stones, and run together into the woods.

 

 

 


 

 

Wishing you a very merry Christmas 2018!

R&R
Ranger52899
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by knox0606 on Mon Dec 24, 2018 12:35 pm

So beautiful, Ranger & Rolf!  What a gift you have given us. Thank you.

I hope the peace, joy, and love you shared in this story surrounds you. Merry Christmas!

Knox

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Sassy Lane on Mon Dec 24, 2018 12:41 pm

Merry Christmas Everyone. I wish a peaceful and joyeus week to all!

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Dells on Mon Dec 24, 2018 12:47 pm

Oh, R&R. You’ve done it again. My eyes are leaking, this was such a beautiful ending to such a beautiful story. (also, the Brat Mischief™️ in kidnapping Dale? Loved. That!) Thank you so much for this gift. I appreciate it more than I can vocalize. I wish I knew how to gift you two with something half as wonderful as you’ve gifted us, but for now I’ll have to simply say thank you and wish you both a happy, wonderful Christmas.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by loyalpainter88 on Mon Dec 24, 2018 12:50 pm

Beautiful ..beautiful ..... 
What a powerful story ... It just touches your heart . 
I love the ranch brats ... They way they orchestred kidnapping Dale from Flynn and Paul ..... To this touching gifts and decorations for the kids ... 
It was the perfect brats meeting for this story 



Love you Rolf and Ranger .
Thank you for this wonderful story ... 

Merry Christmas everyone !
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by HHK on Mon Dec 24, 2018 1:39 pm

Merry Christmas everyone and thank you R&R for all your stories  santa thank you
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by helmilli on Mon Dec 24, 2018 1:51 pm

Thankyou  so much, wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Houndnhorse1 on Mon Dec 24, 2018 2:04 pm

Wow. So great! I’ll wax on about that later. But, is anyone else dying to see how this plays out when the brats get home? So shameless to want more, I know.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by loyalpainter88 on Mon Dec 24, 2018 2:12 pm

Audentes Fortuna iuvat.”
( Fortune favours the brave )

“Ignis aurum probat.” Dale advised him.
(Fire tests gold

Tom gave him a brief grin, taking Jake’s hand. “Quae semper.” ( whatever


I love how Tom and Dale acknowledge each others trials ... 
Of Dale being blind temporarily and Tom being in the house with the rest of the family members ...
And also give courage and encouragement to each other ... 
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by loyalpainter88 on Mon Dec 24, 2018 2:15 pm

@Houndnhorse1 wrote:Wow. So great! I’ll wax on about that later. But, is anyone else dying to see how this plays out when the brats get home? So shameless to want more, I know.

Ha ha ... Am with you ..  especially with flynn and paul in defcon mode . 

But could all of them be spanked on christmas ??? Or since in a way its a brats meeting they will be excused ???
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Turska on Mon Dec 24, 2018 2:57 pm

Such a wonderful Christmas present! So much fun but also so touching. Once again, thank you R&R and happy holidays <3

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by The6ibs on Mon Dec 24, 2018 3:46 pm

Thank you so much Ranger and Rolf for this wonderful Christmas present!  It is my new favorite!  
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!
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Carol service at Kings College

Post by honestas on Mon Dec 24, 2018 4:11 pm

Wonderful story sad it has ended I have always liked that the family still listen the carol service. I was watching an interview on the BBC with a chorister who had sung the solo twice for Once in Royal David's City I was amazed that the choir do not know who will sing the solo until the choirmaster nods to the boy and then he walks to the front to sing and every time it's perfect.I am writing this whilst listening and watching the Carol Service this to me is the start of Christmas wishing you all a very merry Christmas and good Health in the coming New Year

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by jkfan on Mon Dec 24, 2018 4:12 pm

As I've said, I'm saving the book for tomorrow, but I couldn't resist watching the video.  Amazing.  I added it to BOTH my FCR and FCR Christmas YouTube playlists.  I'll watch it again when I finish the story.

I love these videos.  Every time I watch them, I feel like I'm right back reliving the story.

Thank you Rolf, Ranger, the mods, and all my friends here on the forum for making my Christmas a very happy one.

Love and hugs to you all.

Cheryl
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by 5116sue on Mon Dec 24, 2018 5:05 pm

Just love Paul's words.
“Don’t you think,” Paul said conversationally after a while, and his fingers were sliding gently and rhythmically through Dale’s hair, “you’re ever leaving me at home again while you go and get concussed in a shipyard."
He does have the ability to make me laugh.
Throughout the story I had a very clear image of the children in my mind, their actions and interests intrigued me. I loved seeing the trail through their perspective. I now hold an image of wooden toys and stars hanging from a snow laden tree. Thank you for that!
I couldn't have wished for more beautiful images to begin my own festivities.
Peace and joy to all.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by draggon_flye on Mon Dec 24, 2018 5:33 pm

I'm melting. This ending is so sweet. However, I'm with the others. We need an epilogue or something. The Tops are not going to be happy. Personally, I think they will all understand and nobody will be in real trouble, but I think pretty much every one of them (with the possible exception of Darcy – who is officially Switzerland – and Tom – because Jake doesn't really get riled up about small things) is going to get swatted.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by kinneydu on Mon Dec 24, 2018 7:27 pm

What a beautiful, beautiful story.  A wonderful way to start Christmas Day.  It is amazing how with these stories you find yourself actually there, and it is an effort to get back to "real life".  Thank you so much Rolf and Ranger.  And a Merry Christmas to everyone.

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Denicemarcell on Mon Dec 24, 2018 7:50 pm

They had to give the What children their Christmas Tree and could only do it through Dale, absolutely reasonable.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Denicemarcell on Mon Dec 24, 2018 7:52 pm

Thank you Ranger and Rolf for our lovely present. 
Happy Christmas to you both & your families. 

Happy Christmas to the FCR forum family.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Maaliem on Mon Dec 24, 2018 9:19 pm

Completely heartwarming. Thank you so much for this wonderful Christmas present. Merry Christmas Rolf and Ranger. Merry Christmas everyone.

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Nikkimh on Mon Dec 24, 2018 10:43 pm

Thank you, it has become an inherent part of my Christmas to escape to the ranch. Just wonderful. Happy Christmas all x

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by ktjl on Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:32 pm

Excellent story! Thank you!!

Merry Christmas to all...
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Hayjude on Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:02 am

Thank you for such a wonderful story. Merry Christmas xxx
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by abouttime2stop on Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:12 am

Merry Christmas Rolf and Ranger. Thank you for continuing the Christmas story tradition.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by ewr on Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:32 am

Such a lovely gift for us all!  Thank you, R&R.

This is the first Christmas season I have been on the forum, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.  I expected to enjoy the story, once I realized the tradition, but I did not know how much I would enjoy the advent calendar, the "would your rather"s, the quotes, the trivia.  Nor did I expect that I would want to participate in them.  So thank you, too, to JL, Trisha, Dizzy and Tarabeth for my pleasure in the advent calendar.  And thank you to Cheryl and Dizzy for making the story even more accessible.

Thank you to the entire forum for making this such a welcoming, pleasant place to spend some time this holiday season.  Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by abouttime2stop on Tue Dec 25, 2018 4:01 am

I keep thinking about Tom's brief admission that he attended the King's College service in person. He so quickly changed the subject. I was able to find a video of the 2017 Carol at King's which is not the Christmas Eve broadcast, but I got to see the church. It was a wonderful candlelit setting. 

I have been listening to the 2018 88 min broadcast for 45 minutes and it is 7:45pm here. I know it is not live but I can't do the time zone math. If it is traditional for the service to be held from 3pm to 4:30pm in Cambridge, then it would be live at 8am in Wyoming? (7am for me) It is a 7 hrs earlier time difference? So, I tried to research how they would have been listening live in the evening on the ranch. It looks like the BBC releases it at different times to different parts of the world? Can someone explain to me the "live" part? I am confused. 

2018 Service
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0001vyk

other info:
https://www.tripsavvy.com/carols-from-kings-cambridge-christmas-tradition-1661590
http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/sites/default/files/chapel/9lc_order_of_service_2018.pdf
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csy4lr
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_College_Chapel,_Cambridge
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Kittykat on Tue Dec 25, 2018 5:17 am

Thank you R&R! I read it this morning but had to go to work so I couldn't post until now. Made me cry, made me laugh, and just hit all my feels today.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by iam on Tue Dec 25, 2018 10:00 am

What a lovely ending to a beautiful story, thank you so much, Rolf and Ranger, for this Christmas present!

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by sissy on Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:05 pm

Thank you R&R, and all the FCR inhabitants for making this the best Christmas of my life. Happy Christmas to all!!!

Mary Pat
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Guest on Tue Dec 25, 2018 2:29 pm

Thank You Rolf and Ranger, for sharing such a beautiful, interesting Christmas Story. I throughly enjoyed reading each installment, each day getting futher on Dale and Flynn’s journey towards home mirrored each day getting close to Christmas. It’s been a real joy and privilege to discover the books and the wonderful forum & people here this year. Thanks again & Happy Christmas.

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by ringrat on Tue Dec 25, 2018 4:43 pm

Thank you R&R for another wonderful Christmas story and another glimpse into the life of our friends at the Ranch. Your Christmas stories have become one of my favourite things about this time of year, and this year was no exception.

I will join the chorus in wishing for an epilogue, though. bounce 

Merry Christmas to all!

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by curious1_53 on Tue Dec 25, 2018 5:11 pm

@abouttime2stop wrote:I keep thinking about Tom's brief admission that he attended the King's College service in person. He so quickly changed the subject. I was able to find a video of the 2017 Carol at King's which is not the Christmas Eve broadcast, but I got to see the church. It was a wonderful candlelit setting. 

I have been listening to the 2018 88 min broadcast for 45 minutes and it is 7:45pm here. I know it is not live but I can't do the time zone math. If it is traditional for the service to be held from 3pm to 4:30pm in Cambridge, then it would be live at 8am in Wyoming? (7am for me) It is a 7 hrs earlier time difference? So, I tried to research how they would have been listening live in the evening on the ranch. It looks like the BBC releases it at different times to different parts of the world? Can someone explain to me the "live" part? I am confused. 

2018 Service
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0001vyk

other info:
https://www.tripsavvy.com/carols-from-kings-cambridge-christmas-tradition-1661590
http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/sites/default/files/chapel/9lc_order_of_service_2018.pdf
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csy4lr
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_College_Chapel,_Cambridge

I heard it (almost) live (discounting Internet delay) starting at 10 AM US Eastern. Wyoming is Mountain time zone (I think) which would make it 8 AM. A distant (Baltimore) FM station also carried it live, but I had poor reception and opted for an Internet feed from BBC4. I heard a few years back that the BBC was cutting back (link) on shortwave directed toward the US because of the Internet, carriage on subscription satellite radio services (e.g. Sirius XM), and the number of US stations carrying their programming part-time and/or on a secondary digital channel, so I wonder if the ranch brought the laptop down from Paul's office to get an Internet feed. Either that or they broke down and bought an FM radio used just for special occasions.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Denicemarcell on Tue Dec 25, 2018 5:20 pm

There is probably already a radio or two on the ranch, old tech they have but not on display
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Ranger52899 on Tue Dec 25, 2018 5:26 pm

@curious1_53 wrote:
@abouttime2stop wrote:I keep thinking about Tom's brief admission that he attended the King's College service in person. He so quickly changed the subject. I was able to find a video of the 2017 Carol at King's which is not the Christmas Eve broadcast, but I got to see the church. It was a wonderful candlelit setting. 

I have been listening to the 2018 88 min broadcast for 45 minutes and it is 7:45pm here. I know it is not live but I can't do the time zone math. If it is traditional for the service to be held from 3pm to 4:30pm in Cambridge, then it would be live at 8am in Wyoming? (7am for me) It is a 7 hrs earlier time difference? So, I tried to research how they would have been listening live in the evening on the ranch. It looks like the BBC releases it at different times to different parts of the world? Can someone explain to me the "live" part? I am confused. 

2018 Service
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0001vyk

other info:
https://www.tripsavvy.com/carols-from-kings-cambridge-christmas-tradition-1661590
http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/sites/default/files/chapel/9lc_order_of_service_2018.pdf
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csy4lr
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_College_Chapel,_Cambridge

I heard it (almost) live (discounting Internet delay) starting at 10 AM US Eastern. Wyoming is Mountain time zone (I think) which would make it 8 AM. A distant (Baltimore) FM station also carried it live, but I had poor reception and opted for an Internet feed from BBC4. I heard a few years back that the BBC was cutting back (link) on shortwave directed toward the US because of the Internet, carriage on subscription satellite radio services (e.g. Sirius XM), and the number of US stations carrying their programming part-time and/or on a secondary digital channel, so I wonder if the ranch brought the laptop down from Paul's office to get an Internet feed. Either that or they broke down and bought an FM radio used just for special occasions.


Tom hasn't attended the Kings College service - although I suppose he may well have done as a student - he was talking about attending his father's own cathedral service at Christmas at home in Sussex as a child. 

The Kings College service isn't broadcast live on tv in the UK on Christmas Eve, it's pre recorded, but is a fixed part of the annual schedule and is a land mark for many Brits for Christmas Eve late afternoon. It does go out on the World Service, and we know 450 US radio stations broadcast it, so we're saying that the one the ranch always tunes into has a set tradition like the UK day of it being late afternoon/early evening on Christmas Eve.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by abouttime2stop on Tue Dec 25, 2018 6:29 pm

I do think it is broadcast live/ They said there is a pre-recorded "Carols of the King's" produced in early December - on video too on youtube, then there is the the "A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" that people can attend in person on Christmas Eve - usually at 3pm-4:30pm. They line up at 7:30am to get in and the workers turn away those who wont fit - usually starting about 9:30am the queue is blocked off. I listened to that 2018 broadcast in audio so I know it is recorded but not whether it goes out live...

That makes sense that they are listening to it at the same time of day. Thanks for clarifying!

They did say that the service is used as a model all over the world now so the service in Sussex might be very similar.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Ranger52899 on Tue Dec 25, 2018 7:24 pm

The Kings College version is what pretty much takes place in every Church of England parish church in the UK on Christmas Eve, the traditional carol service. There is at least one and often two carol services into the afternoon/evening, which are carols sung by choir and congregation in between the readings telling the nativity story. Midnight mass is then celebrated which is much more of a standard C of E holy communion. These parish church carol services are usually very family friendly and full of children and often children from the church Sunday school act out the nativity play. I sang with the choir for years at Christmas in my local church when I was growing up. 

The cathedrals throughout the UK have much bigger congregations and resident choirs who are much more highly and seriously trained singers (a number of the big cathedrals have a set number of choir boy places and the boys will attend the cathedral boarding school- they stay on into the holidays to sing at the big festivals such as Easter and Christmas), and all the cathedrals hold much bigger, more glamorous versions of the carol service. 

Kings College just happens to be the traditionally televised one - if you go to York Minster or Canterbury Cathedral or any of them really on Christmas Eve, or any parish church, you'll participate in very much the same thing! Candles will be involved. Usually mince pies and tea too at the end. So yes, Tom's childhood Christmas service would look very much like that. The Christmas carol service in David's childhood town a century earlier would be more or less identical.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Houndnhorse1 on Tue Dec 25, 2018 9:34 pm

I was at a similar carol service last night. And, I have to say it was made more entertaining because every time I heard the words “comfort and joy” I heard Andrew (from your Andrew and Gideon stories) saying “oh, comfort and joy, Mrs Dunwoody, comfort and joy”. That made me smile every time.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Parkq on Tue Dec 25, 2018 10:13 pm

Thank you so much R&R for this year’s wonderful Christmas story. It’s such a treat to escape from the season’s stresses for a few minutes and read each installment. Hope you had a Merry Christmas and wishing you a fantastic New Year!

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by tgchaney on Tue Dec 25, 2018 10:26 pm

What a beautiful gift! Thank you for sharing.
Merry Christmas!

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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by dragonquest1313 on Wed Dec 26, 2018 12:27 am

Merry Christmas and thank you.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Brassline on Wed Dec 26, 2018 9:32 am

Thank you so much for this beautiful christmas gift. It was a pleasure to read. 
Merry Christmas
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by zevale on Wed Dec 26, 2018 1:43 pm

So wonderful gift... and I'm sure that, as with all FCR stories, I will find hidden treasures everytime i'll read it...
Many thanks R&R
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by jkfan on Wed Dec 26, 2018 6:23 pm

@Houndnhorse1 wrote:I was at a similar carol service last night. And, I have to say it was made more entertaining because every time I heard the words “comfort and joy” I heard Andrew (from your Andrew and Gideon stories) saying “oh, comfort and joy, Mrs Dunwoody, comfort and joy”. That made me smile every time.
I really enjoyed the Andrew and Gideon series as well, although I'd forgotten the "comfort and joy" quote until you mentioned it, Julie.  I think I'll be smiling as well the next time I hear the carol.

Amazing, how often FCR comes to mind.  I was in a restaurant recently where the special mousse of the day was "snickers".  I smiled when I thought of Riley's horse.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by Ranger52899 on Wed Dec 26, 2018 7:18 pm

Rolf and I will get to answer properly in a day or two but wanted to say a quick and immediate thank you for all the lovely messages - it was a pleasure to share the instalments with you in the last days of Christmas, thank you for making this place such a fun and welcoming place. We're delighted you had fun with the story.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by DeeDee on Wed Dec 26, 2018 7:49 pm

Rolf and Ranger, 

So wonderful to read Dale was seeing most things and that only print was still giving him problems.  You could feel Riley's concern especially when he was touching the graze.  He really loves Dale so much, they aren't just partners and lovers they're also best friends and you can see that in those times when Dale returns from a trip.  I imagine being told he couldn't go with Jasper was very hard for Riley to hear.  

There are times when Riley fusses because it's 'expected - and he wouldn't want to disappoint (would he?) - I think this was one of those times because you have to know how very much he appreciated the care Flynn took with Dale (as Flynn does with all of them):  

“You’re not dragging Dale out into the woods through heavy snow.” Flynn said definitely, hugging Riley tight enough to lift him off his feet. “Hey halfpint. We’re keeping the house quiet and the racket to a minimum, he isn’t up to it.”


“Has he been like this the whole time?” Riley demanded of Dale, but he hugged Flynn hard, both arms locked around his neck.  



And then Paul being so possessive of Dale - it's the knowing how much worse it could all have been.  Dale isn't one to like being fussed over or being the one that is causing any sort of setback to plans that have been in place since before he came  (as he displayed to Flynn on a few times.  But in this case I see he is quite content to sit in Paul's lap and be fussed over:  Not being uncomfortable in his lap is the best part of this line.  

In Paul’s lap, since Paul clearly didn’t plan to let him go any time soon, Dale held on to him and drank tea, blessedly proper tea. 

And again, you see his love and care in this:  

“Don’t you think,” Paul said conversationally after a while, and his fingers were sliding gently and rhythmically through Dale’s hair, “you’re ever leaving me at home again while you go and get concussed in a shipyard. If Flynn wants to come on your business trips too he can, but I won’t care if the meeting involves actual bloodshed. If you’re going to be around explosions and getting stuck in awful hotels, I’m going to be there.”

I did have to laugh and think that perhaps Flynn needs another turn around those corrals because his 'I'm home now and can be happy' mood hasn't quite returned.  Thank heavens we had Jasper there for some perspective!:  

“What was the Casper hotel like?”

“Loud.” Flynn said shortly. Having put the hired car out of the way in the line with the others, and taken a quick look around the corral at the horses and the pasture to check on the stock, his cheek bones were wind chilled scarlet and he took a seat next to Paul, wrapping his hands around a cup of tea.

“Only downstairs.” Jasper corrected. “We were fine up in the room, the bed was comfortable, and we left before it had a chance to get loud again this morning. There was some kind of party going on downstairs when we arrived yesterday, it was more than we needed to handle.”

“If you’d have let me hike out with you,” Riley grumbled at him, “You’d have had more pairs of hands to help,”

“And it would have been louder and busier.” Flynn finished for him.

“You’re no fun.”

“On iced roads in heavy snow, no.”  


You showed us the value these men, this family, places on those who are of 'their land' in Three Trades with Gam Saan.  People who are important to one member are important to all members and it's not just words - it's almost reverence.  The map that they put together to show the path that little Sarah and her family took wasn't just interest in the Oregon Trail, it was knowing where more of 'their people' came from and what they must have endured to make it to a new life.  Those, like Sarah, who never made are now family to this ranch and that map is her footprint.  

I remember in one of the books how it was said (something along these lines) that you may ask other members about themselves but it's up to them whether they choose to share (yes, I know that's not quite right, but I leave for work shortly and I've no time to hunt down exactly how it was worded) - anyway... my point is little Sarah wants to be remembered.  She shows herself to Dale and Dale opens himself to her story - her life and those things that made her happy (and still do).  They use that knowledge from Dale to make a map that will forever cement her to their land.  

David's map room is a map of his life ending at the ranch.  He carved many items to add to that map.  I hope Jasper will find time to carve items for this new map that has become part of all of them.  

God bless the brats (and perhaps also, heaven help the brats) for getting Dale out of there.  Their intentions are so wonderful that you hate thinking of them getting into trouble for it - and sadly that thought is in the back of my mind.  But for now those thoughts had to take a back seat and I think for each of them it did too.  The Gift of sharing with Dale was too strong to be ignored and worth it.   

That section where Dale see's the tree just brought tears to my eyes.  The gift of the tree and the toys and handmade ornaments was so beautiful.  The act of giving to and sharing with these small children was glorious.  I just loved this:  

From the lower branches, maybe from six feet up to about two feet from the ground, small toys hung, tied to the branches with red ribbon. Several small wooden trains. Several rag dolls in delicate dresses. Painted soldiers. Wooden horses. A toy drum with its beater attached to the drum with ribbon. A little xylophone with a beater also hanging beside it. And five wooden stars, each one with a name carefully painted on and varnished for waterproofing. Hannah. Reid. Jesse. Clay, and Sarah.

To think AND KNOW that Riley hates shopping, makes this section all the more special.  Not to take away from what each of them did, but we all KNOW Riley's feelings on shopping.  This was so beautiful:  

“You’re going to think we’re mad,” Gerry said conversationally, “But Bear and Riley and I went into Jackson the day before yesterday and raided one of the toy shops, and Bear made the stars. It seemed… only right. Under the circumstances.”



Oh it was right. Dale slid down from Hammer’s saddle to go to the tree, running his fingers lightly over one or two of the toys. The carving and varnishing of the stars was very much Bear’s work, Dale knew his style: there were door panels on the ranch that looked like this, but these were truly beautiful. Carefully, lovingly shaped and sanded to perfect smoothness, and the lettering of the painted names was Darcy’s delicate looping handwriting, the kind he put in Christmas and birthday cards. Dale looked up to find Bear, swallowing on the warmth of the smile Bear gave him. Riley had dismounted too. Dale felt Snickers huff against his shoulders and Riley reached past him to straighten one of the trains. Wooden toys. Things that a child of 1848 would recognise. That had Riley’s touch all over it. Unable to say anything at all, Dale put an arm around his waist and Riley returned the hug.  



What an ending - so wonderful!

I know I often analyze the stories and try guessing at what will happen next and maybe that's not exactly what you are hoping for when you hear from me/us.  But I want you to know that I love the stories you weave together chapter by chapter.  The obvious is never actually what is going to happen and only when you read it as a whole book can you appreciate the beauty of the story and the writing.  The thought and research.  The writing and editing.  The tracking of timelines and personalities of the characters.  We see none of that - we only ever see the final version which is so polished.  It must take so much of your free time and which you then share freely and kindly to us.  So I hope you know how very much your sharing means to me.  And this gift at a time of year when 'giving' is supposed to be better than 'receiving' only makes me wish that I could honor your gift in a way that it deserves, but I seem to not have anything truly worthy of it.  The best I have is to say Thank You and Merry Christmas.  

Dee


Last edited by DeeDee on Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:08 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : mistakes)
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by DeeDee on Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:13 pm

OMG - I CAN'T BELIEVE I forgot to mention this:  

Do you know why Flynn is stuffing jeans in the bin by the way?”

“They’re the ones he bought in Kearney, we were a bit short on clean clothes.”

“Oh wait for it.” Paul said dryly. “He says he can’t ride in them?”

“How did you guess?” Dale said, straight faced. Paul burst out laughing and hugged him.

“I knew it! Oh I know, he was looking after you and he had his hands full at the time. I won’t tease him. Much.”

(there is so much to be said for consistency!!!)

I love you both!

Dee
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by jkfan on Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:42 pm

@DeeDee wrote:OMG - I CAN'T BELIEVE I forgot to mention this:  

Do you know why Flynn is stuffing jeans in the bin by the way?”

“They’re the ones he bought in Kearney, we were a bit short on clean clothes.”

“Oh wait for it.” Paul said dryly. “He says he can’t ride in them?”

“How did you guess?” Dale said, straight faced. Paul burst out laughing and hugged him.

“I knew it! Oh I know, he was looking after you and he had his hands full at the time. I won’t tease him. Much.”

(there is so much to be said for consistency!!!)

I love you both!

Dee
That was my laugh out loud moment too, Dee.  And I really like your idea of Jasper carving items reflecting Sarah's trip on the Oregon Trail.

One of the most heartwrenching parts for me was when Flynn realized all the children who were joining Sarah had died on the trail - 

“None of them survived the trail, did they? Every one of them means a family that put their heart into this, took one of these wagons all this way over hard ground, and they lost their child doing it.”  


Flynn in Oregon Way 


At the end, my first thought was that Flynn and Paul are going to have whatever the Top version of a meltdown is when they discover Dale's gone.  I'm counting on Jasper to provide the calming influence to talk them down from paddling each and every brat who took part in 'kidnapping' Dale - including Dale for putting up zero resistance to the idea.


Once they see the tree and understand how careful everyone was (walking the horses, for example), I'm hoping they relent although it wouldn't surprise me if every corner in the house is filled with a non-repentant brat - just to make a point!!
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by DeeDee on Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:56 pm

Sadly Flynn's thought occurred to me slightly ahead of him.  It was a very distressing moment.  And yet, their sheer joy in being with each other eased the sadness that they (perhaps and hopefully) died instantly. Flynn is a very sensitive man, for all that he is a top - his compassion and care SHINED in this story. (Sorry, but must edit now.  Flynn is a very compassionate man.  I didn't intend to say that he isn't - what I really should have said is that - much like Shenanigans Overlook - it doesn't matter to Flynn the intent of what you are doing - it matters what the rules are.  Flynn has little or no understanding when breaking rules and even less so when he is protecting the ones he loves - think about how he tried to chastise Paul after the incident with the thieves - Paul would have none of it (of course) but Flynn's feelings run deep.  It's sort of an understanding of how he feels. Though the brat side of me is with Riley/Gerry/Bear/Niall/Dale/Tom/etc.- some things are just worth it!

I like to think that because Dale was healing (yeah, I know... if wishes were horses, etc., etc.) they wouldn't be angry but every so slightly understanding. I get that the brats could have done it 'another time' but tops don't get 'urgency'.  

Perhaps they need a new handbook where urgency is defined and excused.  

We shall see.  

Every corner... LOL... David made sure there were plenty of 'handy' corners.  

Merry Christmas. 

Dee


Last edited by DeeDee on Wed Dec 26, 2018 9:06 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : clarification - and now edit #2)
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by abouttime2stop on Wed Dec 26, 2018 9:18 pm

Maybe they told jasper what they were doing before kidnapping Dale?  Having a brief brat meeting and taking great care with Dale....

Either way, I bet Jasper was with them the whole time. Just in case.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

Post by jkfan on Wed Dec 26, 2018 9:37 pm

I had the same thought - Jasper always seems to be aware when something's afoot.  Think of him shadowing Dale and Riley when they sneaked away to see Three Traders at night - after Jas specifically said they weren't to go off alone together.  Or Jasper carving that beautiful design in the ice box Dale and Riley put up as part of a practical joke.

It wouldn't surprise me a bit to discover he was following the brat contingent - staying well behind but keeping a watchful eye out.
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Re: Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 6

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