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Daily Archives: December 23, 2012

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY AND JOYFUL NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE FROM 9HS1658

                                                            

Christmas is just around the corner, so I thought some of you might enjoy some of my short stories about Christmas and the old days, when life was less complicated than now.

December 23/2012

This is the final installment of short Christmas stories.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

From a collection of short stories by Bob Levac

Uncle Waldo’s giant Christmas tree

Chapter 1

Back in the early 1940′s, our family went through a painful transition period that gave my little brother Jimmy and I the scare of our lives, and could have ended with dire consequences had it not been for a giant Evergreen tree and a star studded sky on one particular christmas evening..

. I had just turned thirteen in July of that eventful year, and for as long as I could remember  my grandfather’s farm just outside a small town near Ottawa had been the gathering place for our family during Christmas season, until his death in the Fall of 1949. His passing had been a sad time for all of us, but the Yuletide tradition was carried on again that Christmas following his death.

Despite dad’s pleas that a woman grandma’s age should not be living alone, she could not bring herself to leave the farm that had been such a big part of all our lives for so many years. “Lets have just have one more gathering up here,” she said. “Everyone loves this place so much, and your father would have wanted us to carry on this year and have one last last Christmas here on the farm,” she told dad.

When she finally sold the farm and moved in with us the following summer, thoughts of where the family would gather next Christmas did not roll around until late November. My dad and my uncles discussed the pros and cons of different locations, and it was two weeks before the holidays when the family decided to accept uncle Waldo’s invitation to hold the gathering at his cottage. It was a  section of land called Cavel Point that jutted out into the Ottawa river at Papineauville on the Quebec side of the river, some 40 miles east of Ottawa. It was a beautiful spot in summer or winter, with miles of rolling hills that were perfect for tobboganing and sledding in the winter. The cottage had five bedrooms, and there was more than enough room to handle the expected company over the holiday gathering. The front of the cottage boasted a magnificent view of the river, with all trees and shrubbery located to the sides and rear of the building, except for one evergreen tree.

When Uncle Waldo had cleared the land to build, he had cut down all the trees in the area where the front of the cottage was to be located, in order to have a clear view of the water. But there was one beautiful, majestically tall Christmas tree that he could not bring himself to chop down. It must have been well over 70 feet tall, and its branches cast a giant shadow of cooling shelter from the stifling heat of the summer months. “That tree has been around for longer than both you or I,” I heard uncle Waldo say to my dad one day when they were clearing the land. “Somehow it has managed to grow twice as tall as any of the other ones around it Tony, so anything with that much gumption to survive deserves to be left alone,” he said with finality.

So the tree remained, and the cottage was built to one side of it. Our family had often visited the cottage during the summer, and my brother and I would explore the surrounding gullys and hills for hours during those times. We had found certain little spots where we would hide and pretend we were big game hunters waiting for a moose or a bear to come along. In our many forays through the woods, we had gotten to know most of the trails leading to the main road, which eventually took us back to the cottage after hiking through small stands of timber and underbrush.

So it was that when dad told me we would be spending Christmas there, Jimmy and I were overjoyed. We began planning our excursions in to the surrounding hills in our minds, and we could hardly wait for the next two weeks to pass.                     Chapter 2

We left home the day before Christmas eve. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we arrived at the cottage shortly after lunch. This had been the first time we had seen the property in winter, and although the beauty and starkness of the snow covered terrain cast a tranquil feeling of serenity, it somehow gave me a feeling of sadness and emptiness. The surrounding hills had lost their plush greenery of summer, and the tall grass carpeting a path through the woods and up the hillsides had been replaced by snow drifts and bare trees laden with icicles instead of leafs. I felt overwhelmed by this feeling of despair, after the tingling excitement of the past few weeks while planning our holiday stay up here.

Perhaps it was because I missed my grandfather so much and the white domed hills reminded me of the farm where I had spent so many happy hours with him. The feeling began to pass as we finally got the cars unloaded. We began to relax and enjoy the roaring fire uncle Waldo had built in the stone fireplace.

As the afternoon wore on the family began to settle in and aunt Doreen began a singsong with some of my younger  cousins, so Jimmy and I, who were the oldest of the children, decided to wandered outside and see what dad and uncle Waldo were doing. We found them in a storage shed in back of the cottage , where Uncle Waldo and dad were working on an old snowmobile machine. It the first one I had ever seen, because there were not that many snow machines around in those days. Uncle Waldo was a mechanic by trade and he had put this one together with parts he had salvaged over the years. “She may not be the best looking machine in the world,” I heard him say to dad, “but she runs like a top.”

. When he spotted us, he gave dad a wink and then called us over. “I bet you boys would like to take her out for a spin tomorrow, eh?,” he said “Boy, would we ever,” I said, as Jimmy jumped up and down with excitement. “Could we dad?” I pleaded. “Well, I don’t know,” he said, turning to my uncle. “Just how reliable is that thing anyhow,” he inquired. “She can be cantankerous at times,” said uncle Waldo, “but I just finished tuning her up so they shouldn’t have any problems.” “If you boys just stick around here, you’ll be okay. That way if she gives you any problems, just leave her and come back and get me.” “Don’t sound to safe for the boys to be fooling with,” said dad. “Aw c’mon, Tony,” said uncle Waldo, “where’s your spirit of adventure? Besides, its Christmas!

After much discussion and a few glasses of aunt Doreen’s egg nog, dad reluctantly gave in. “Yeah!, thanks dad! thanks!” Mom came out to see what all the excitement was about, and after dad explained, mom gave him a scornful look as she advised us sternly that supper was ready and ordered us to come in and wash up. After everyone had eaten, the ladies cleaned up while my dad and my uncles sat around, finishing off the rest of the egg nog and swapping stories. It wasn’t to late when we all retired, and Jimmy and I were bedded down on the sofa near the fireplace. We discussed our plans for the next day, and decided we would look for one of our favorite spots where we used to hide out in the summer.. The soothing heat had a lulling effect, and soon I felt myself drifting off to sleep with thoughts of our snow mobile adventure tomorrow dancing around in my head .

Chapter 3

Early next morning, I was awakened by the sounds of dishes rattling and the delicious aroma of bacon and eggs being cooked on a woodstove. Mom and aunt Doreen were busy preparing breakfast, while the other women were setting the table and getting the younger children dressed for the day. Dad and my uncles were chopping wood and bringing it in to be piled next to the fireplace. It was almost 10 o’clock by the time breakfast was over and the chores that needed doing were completed. Uncle Waldo could see how anxious we were to  get outside and begin our little adventure. “Lets get out to the shed and haul that snow machine out so the boys can go for their ride,” he said to dad, ” and then we can haul out the fishing gear and chop some holes in the ice. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and catch a whole mess of fish for the ladies to clean and cook up for lunch,” he said, and chuckled. Aunt Doreen looked at him with a sour look and shook her finger at him. “If you catch any, you better make sure you clean them yourself,” said aunt Doreen, “or you’ll be eating leftovers for lunch.”

Uncle Waldo laughed, and we all went outside. He started up the machine and drove it out of the shed, and Jimmy and I climbed on, shaking with excitement. We were given a few quick instructions on how to operate it, and we were ready to go. Just as dad was telling us not to wander too far off, the machine suddenly groaned and stopped running. “Darn,” said uncle Waldo, “lets bring her back in the shed and see what gives.” By the time the problem was found it was almost three in the afternoon, and dad wasn’t too keen on us going out this late, but he finally relented. “We won’t go far I said,” revving up the snow mobile, “we just want to go over a few hills and then we’ll come back,” I promised Then with a wave of our hand Jimmy and I were off, and the machine carried us over the snow-ladened hills with ease.

It didn’t take us long to get out of sight of the cottage, and we headed into the woods where we thought our favorite spot was. As we searched for our hide out, we realized that everything looked completely different now that it was covered with snow. After searching for quite a while for our spot, we decided it was hopeless, and we turned around to head back to the cottage. We hadn’t noticed the change in the weather, and It was beginning to snow. As we made our way along the trail we had made coming in, the storm intensified, and we could barely see where we were going.The trail we were following became less and less visible as the snow continued to pelt us. We suddenly realized that it was also beginning to get dark, and we had been so busy trying to find our spot that we had not noticed how late it was getting. “I’m scared,” said Jimmy, as he clutched my waist and began to cry. “don’t be silly,” I said, “We’ll be back at the cottage in a few minutes. But the snow had turned into freezing rain, and the trail was completely covered.

I drove on for almost ten minutes, then we had to stop, the snow was so heavy. As I looked around at the falling snow and the unfamiliar landscape, I came to a conclusion that chilled me to the bone.  We were lost. I had no idea which way the cottage was. and darkness was closing in on us rapidly. Jimmy began to whimper, and I must admit I was not too far from tears myself. “It’s okay,” I said trying to comfort him, “all we have to do is keep going in one direction, and we’ll end up on the road or back at the cottage.” But what if we were heading away from the cottage?, I thought. I pushed the thought aside and started the machine up again. The rain continued to fall, and we were in complete darkness now except for the beam of the headlight. We continued on hoping to see the lights of the cottage or a car’s headlights on the access road.

As we came to a clearing I did not recognize, I suddenly realized that we were out in the river. The rain began to let up and stopped shortly after, and the moon broke through the cloud cover. We could see the surrounding terrain clearly, but there was only snow and ice ahead of us and and a few stands of trees.I could not see any lights or any recognizable land marks. Suddenly Jimmy, who was looking back in the direction we had come from, let out a holler. “Look! Bobby look! over there!” he shouted. I turned around just as the moon was covered again in cloud and I could not see what he was so excited about. “I don’t see anything,” I said “Right over there!,” he said, “I saw a light!” I scanned the horizon but did not see anything.”It must have been your imagination.”

But suddenly the cloud cover cleared and the moon shone brilliantly again. “Over there he said!” Then my heart leapt, as I spotted what looked like a flashlight, high above the horizon in the distance. Then the moon disappeared behind a cloud once more and the light went out. When the skies cleared again the light came back on, and as I looked around I suddenly realized that it was the moon reflecting off the coating of ice that the freezing rain had left on the tree tops.

Sure enough, the moon went behind another cloud and the light went out. But this light had been way above the height of any of the trees around here! “Of course!,” I shouted, nearly scaring Jimmy out of his wits. “It’s uncle Waldo’s giant Christmas tree!,” I exclaimed with a sigh of relief. Were safe Jimmy,! That’s the big tree at uncle Waldo’s cottage! It’s the only one that big anywhere around here!,” I said, “it’s the moonlight reflecting off the top of the giant Christmas tree!.”

Then the moon began peeking in and out of the rapidly moving clouds, and as we looked in the direction we had seen the light, there it was! The reflection was flashing on and off like a beacon light whenever the moon peeked out, and we jumped on the machine and headed in that direction. “Boy, are we ever going to get heck from dad,” I said. But I didn’t care. I was just happy to be heading back to the cottage.

Within five minutes we could see the lights of the cottage, and there were people in the woods all around it with flash lights and lanterns. Then as we approached the cottage the headlights picked up the form of two women rushing towards us. We pulled up alongside them and my mother ran over to us and hugged us. Aunt doreen came over and put her arms around us too, and they both began to cry. Then they both turned towards the woods and began to shout. “Tony! Waldo! It’s the boys! They’re safe, there back!”

My dad and uncle Waldo came crashing through the bush, and when dad reached us he stood there towering over us with a stern look on his face. Then his face broke into a grin and he threw his arms around both of us. Back at the cottage, we explained to everyone what had happened and how the giant Christmas tree had acted as a shining star to guide us back to the cottage. “I thank God for that tree,” said mom, “having you both safe and sound again is the best Christmas present we could ever have.

Chapter 4

The rest of the holidays that year passed without any further misfortunes, and the family gatherings continued at the cottage for some years after that When uncle Waldo died, the cottage was left to the oldest daughter and her husband. My wife and I were good friends with them and we continued to visit at the cottage every summer, so it was with sadness that week end four years later, that I stood by and watched as a work crew from the local Hydro electric company began the task of cutting down uncle Waldo’s giant Christmas tree down. The company was installing new lines to replace their old and worn out system, and the new lines to the cottage had to be brought in where the tree was.

As the crew finished up several hour later and began to clean up, I walked over to the spot where there was now only a gigantic tree stump. I bent over and picked up a small branch of the giant evergreen laying on the ground. I carefully wrapped it in a plastic bag and put it in the trunk of my car. When I returned home that Sunday evening, I coated the branch with a preservative, and and mounted it on a rectangular piece of pine. I took it to a local sign shop, and had the words: “Uncle Waldo’s Giant Christmas Tree” lettered on the bottom.

. Every year now, when the Yultide season rolls around, I hang the plaque on the wall next to our Christmas tree, and recall that near fatal Christmas eve at the cottage. And when ever I look at the branch mounted on it, I thank God for that giant Christmas tree and it’s shining ray of light that led us to the safety of our loved ones on that long ago Christmas eve.

THE END

@Copyright/Dec.94 Rolev Publications 

 

December 7th/2012

This is the third installment of my short stories for Christmas,

The follow up to this story will be published on the last week end before Christmas.

GRANDPA’S CHRISTMAS SECRET  

From a collection of Short Stories By Bob Levac    

 SOME of my favorite memories of Christmas are the wonderful days we used to spend at my Grandfather’s farm in a little rural town about 40 miles outside of Ottawa. In the days of my youth, Chesterville consisted of little more than a post office, town hall and general store surrounded by rolling farmland.

It was here that my Grandfather and Grandmother were married shortly before he went off to fight for our country in the early part of the century. When he returned from the war he used the money he had coming from the army to purchase 300 acres of land. He and Grandma spent the early part of their lives clearing the land and building their farmhouse and outbuildings

. My dad was born and raised there, but he left when he was 18 to work in the nearby city.Still, he loved the farm, and he would go home to visit every chance he could. It was here we would spend our Christmas holiday season every year for as long as I can remember.The farm was a three story structure with 6 bedrooms.The bedroom I would always sleep in was on the second floor, directly beneath Grandpa and Grandma’s.

It was in the early 1940’s that I first became aware of a child’s fantasies involving Santa and his sleigh full of toys. On Christmas eve that year, as Grandpa tucked me in, he told me the age old story of Santa Claus and how he would bring gifts this very night to all the good boys and girls all over the world.He explained to me that seeing as we were so far out in the country, Santa would probably not get here until very early in the morning.”So you see, if you fall asleep early you will be well rested early tomorrow morning,” Grandpa told me. “And you may be able to hear him and his reindeer on the roof after they deliver your gifts.”

It wasn’t long after that I was fast asleep, and I had the most wonderful dream about Santa.Just after the crack of dawn I was awaken by what seemed to be a loud noise coming from the roof.I scrambled out of bed and tried to see out through the frosted window, but to no avail. Then I heard what to me at that time was the most wonderful sound in the world. The unmistakable jingle-jangle of sleigh bells rang out in a chorus, and I heard someone say in a loud deep voice,”Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas, everyone”.Then, more jangling sleigh bells, and loud shuffling noises that seemed to be coming from the rooftop.It was true! It was True! Santa had just been here! I could hardly contain myself as I ran from my room out into the hallway and straight into Grandpa, who just happened to be waiting in the hallway. Grandpa, Grandpa,” I shouted, “He’s been here, I heard him! I heard him!”.He scooped me up in his arms and gave me a big hug, as my Grandmother looked on with a smile of happiness on her face.”Whoa, calm down,” he said. “Lets go see what he brought you”.

That was one of the happiest days of my life, and as soon as the snow came I would begin to look forward to Santa’s visit. My younger brother was born that same year, and a few years later when he was old enough to understand, my Grandfather told him the same story about Santa Claus and his visits. For the next few years my school, my brother and I would experience those wonderful Christmas morning sleigh bell sounds and noises at my Grandfather’s farmhouse. I began having my doubts about Santa when I started school at age six.The older boys would tease us because we still believed in Santa Claus, and it was there that the seed of doubt was planted. My suspicions were confirmed the following year at the farm. It was the day before Christmas, and Grandpa had sent me out to his workshop to bring in some firewood he had brought inside to dry out

.As I filled the wood box, I realized that I had finally grown tall enough to reach that mysterious shelf above Grandpa”s workbench.Out of curiosity, I peered into the corner of the shelf behind a box, and it was then that I saw something that left no doubt in my mind.There, glistening in the half-light of the single workshop light bulb, was an old set of leather harness reigns. Spaced every six inches or so apart the length of the reigns were sparkling miniature silver bells.As I lowered the harness from the shelf, I heard the familiar jingle-jangle sound I had heard every Christmas morning for as long as I could remember. This with the sudden realization that the sounds supposedly coming from the rooftop above on Christmas morning could just have easily come from Grandpa’s room above us

.Just then Grandpa came in to see what was taking me so long, and when he saw me with the harness reigns in my hand, he new the jig was up. “Well, it looks as though you’ve discovered my little secret”, he said.Then he explained to me that every child is entitled to his fantasies while growing up, and that we should keep it our secret so that my younger brother could enjoy his for the next few years. That Christmas morning my brother and I were awakened as usual by the sleigh bells, and my sadness upon awakening and recalling my discovery yesterday was quickly dispelled by my brother’s jubilation and happiness.I found myself wanting to run out in the hall and into my Grandfather’s arms as I had done for so many years, but little Jimmy had already charged out of the room and was telling Grandpa about all the wonderful Santa sounds.”Yes,” Grandpa said. “I know Grandma and I heard it too. Did you hear them Bobby?”, he asked, as he gave me a sly wink.”I sure did Grandpa”, I said, as I returned his wink with one of my own.

As we left the farm that year, little did I realize it would be the last time I would see my Grandfather alive.When we were saying goodbye, he told me that what I had learned was all a part of growing up, and that I would experience many more unexpected suprises as I got older.”As you go through life”, he said, “You will have to face some situations that will confuse you and hurt you, but always remember the good things and everything will turn out right.”

I will always remember his last words to me, but nothing could have ever prepared me for that bleak October morning when my father sat me down and told me he had passed away. Dad tried to convince Grandma to sell the farm and come live with us in the city.She said she could not bring herself to leave the familiar surroundings where she and Grandpa had spent most of their lives, not just yet.She decided to see the winter through, and then put the farm up for sale in the spring.My dad suggested that we have Christmas at our house this year, but she would not hear of it.She insisted we have one last Christmas on the farm.”Grandpa would have wanted it that way”, she said.Dad new better than to argue with her when her mind was made up, so it was agreed that we would carry on the tradition for one more year. We drove up Christmas week and settled in as we usually did, and went about with our preparations for the big day.There was a certain air of sadness about us, knowing Grandpa would not be with us this year

.As Christmas day approached our mood began to change, and little Jimmy’s enthusiasm at the prospect of Santa’s visit was catching.Our spirits seemed to lift on Christmas eve as we retired for the night.I was tuckered out from the many chores that had to be done that day, and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

The next thing I remember is someone shaking me and shouting, “get up, get up”.It was little Jimmy, and he was bubbling with excitement.”He was here, Bobby, he was here! I heard the sleigh bells, they were on the roof!”.I was still half asleep, and it took a minute before I realized what Jimmy was saying. Then, I heard the same familiar bells ringing, as I had so many times before.At first I couldn’t understand how that could be, and then I realized that it must have been Grandma.We ran out into the hall expecting to see Grandma, but she was no where in sight.

We went down into the kitchen and found her making breakfast for Mom and Dad, sitting at the table.Jimmy was jumping up and down and yelling. “He’s been here, I heard him and the bells”, he kept saying.”Lets go see what he left us”.Everyone looked at me with a strange look.Grandma fixed her gaze on me with furrowed brows. “Bobby, what in the name of heavens is he talking about”, she said.I gave her my “this is our little secret wink”, and ran into the living room with Jimmy. After we had opened the presents my Grandmother was cleaning up the breakfast dishes in the kitchen.I put my arms around her and gave her a big hug.”Thanks Grandma”, I said, “for remembering the sleigh bells”

“You mean the ones Grampa used to use to wake you kids up with on Christmas?.”Yes”, I said. “I’d like to have them as a souvenir of Grandpa if you dont want them.” She looked at me with a sad look in her eyes. I’m sorry Bobby,” she said. “I gave those away shortly after your Grandfather died,” she said.”The men from the Mission house came and I told them to take everything in the shed, and sell what the didn’t need”.”But that’s impossible”, I said.When I told her that I had heard the sleigh bells too, and thought it was her, she explained that she and my parents had been in the kitchen for an hour before we came running down.

Grandma and I just stared at each other in disbelief, neither of us knowing what to say.To this day, I cant be sure if I was still half asleep, or if I had dreamed it. Jimmy is sure he heard it too, but now that we look back we concede that it could have been our childhood imaginations. But every year around Christmas time when I hear the sounds of the season and hear everyone singing about sleigh bells in the snow, I think of Grandpa. And it leaves me to wonder, if that last Christmas morning on the farm had somehow been his way of saying goodbye. Perhaps he was reminding Jimmy and I that as long as we remember the good things in our lives everything will be alright.

 

–THE END–

Copyright@Rolev/Publications 1995

 

November 26/2012

Here is the second in a series of Christmas stories from my collection of short stories.

Christmas 1995

Willy boy and the Christmas bouquet


————————————————

From a collection of short stories by Bob Levac

 

Every year around Christmas time my thoughts return to my youth when I was growing up in Ottawa during the first half of this century. Things were much less complicated in those days, and the easy pace of life had left some pleasant memories etched in my mind. Every year, as the yuletide season would draw nearer, one of the things I would remember fondly was a cat-chasing Cocker Spaniel dog we called Willy boy.

It was kind of a strange name, and as I recall, we had originally named it Willy for want of a better name.

No one could remember for sure how or exactly when the “boy” part of his name got tacked on, but I think it had something to do with old man Baker next door, who used to call all us kids “boy”, when he caught us in his yard or if he saw us trying to pilfer a carrot or a tomato from his garden.

“Bobby boy,” he would yell at me as my younger brother Jimmy as we scaled the fence between his property and our house on Rochester street.

“And you too, Jimmy boy, I seen the two of you, and when I tell your Dad about this you’ll both get a hide tarring.”

No matter how dark it was he could always tell who it was.

it was the same thing in Willy boy’s case. Even if it was pitch black at night, somehow the old man new it was Willy boy who had put the run on his cat.

It seems as though I can still hear him calling after the dog when he would chase the cat up on the roof of his shed.

“Here now Willy boy, you leave that poor cat alone, you big bully.”

He had made a career out of chasing cats, and no matter how much you called or scolded, nothing would stop him when the chase was on.

That is until he got run over by a car while in hot pursuit of Mr. Baker’s tabby just before Christmas one year.

My brother Jimmy and I had come to love that dog, and it was with great sorrow we watched as dad buried him under the Maple tree in the back yard. he loss of the dog had put a damper on Christmas that year, but my brother and I turned our affections to a cat that we had found under the front porch last Fall and soon things began to return to normal. I was only 10 years old at the time, and as I grew older, I began to think about Willy boy less and less.

–Chapter 2-

Time marched on, and the years between adolescence and adulthood were much too swift as I set about completing my education and striving to reach my career goals. After settling down and raising a family, during which time there were family pets for the children, my wife and decided to sell our 3-bedroom family home in the city and move to the outskirts of Gatineau, where the pace was much slower than the hustle and bustle of Ottawa.

It was early October when we made our decision, and we had just closed our cottage for the winter.

We had become used to the relaxing atmosphere at the cottage over the summer seasons, and returning to the city was always a letdown. My wife and I had talked it over on several occasions previously, and we decided there was no time like the present to change our lifestyle to meet our needs.

All the kids were grown up and married or in college, and I was semi-retired, so we purchased a smaller home located in a park just outside of the city limits, where we had both the convenience of the nearby shopping malls and the tranquility of the countryside.

It was a small bungalow, with one master bedroom and a smaller sitting room with a pull-down couch that could be used if we had overnight company.

There were only ten homes in the park, and they were located in such a fashion that your neighbour was close enough to visit, but not close enough to bother you.

Our property was at the end of the park, and we were fortunate enough to be surrounded by beautiful trees parkland.

A few months after settling in to our new surroundings, my wife Yolande made a suggestion about something that I myself had been toying with for a couple of weeks.

We had become accustomed to taking walks along our country road after supper, and during these times I had begun to think about that old Cocker Spaniel Willy boy from my childhood, and how he would have loved it up here in the country.

I could picture him in my mind running after the neighbourhood cats and chasing them across the fields.

It was early December, and we had awakened at 6.00 a.m. this morning to a spectacular view of the forest that bordered our property.

There had been a light snow fall last night, the first of the season, and the majestic evergreen trees were highlighted with tufts of sparkling snow that glinted in the early morning sunlight.

There was just barely enough snow to cover the ground, but the white blanket that covered the landscape gave it a look of beauty and cleanliness that we had never seen before.

We had been sitting at the kitchen table eating our breakfast of bacon and eggs and enjoying the beautiful view and the warm sunshine, when she caught me by surprise.

“You know,” she said,” I was thinking that maybe we should consider getting a dog.”

“It would be good company for us,” she continued, ” and we should have one for security anyway.”

I told her that I had been thinking about the same thing for a while, and as we  finished our breakfast I told her about my old dog Willy boy, and how he used to terrorize the neighbour’s cat on Rochester street.

For the next couple of weeks we talked about what kind of dog we wanted and we began to inquire at the local pet shops and the SPCA as to what was available, but by sheer coincidence the choice was made for us.

We went to a party at my brother-in-law’s place in Thurso on Christmas eve and his nephew, Michael and his wife had brought their dog  along because he was too young to leave at home alone.

It was a  5-month-old Cocker Spaniel, and when I saw it I fell in love with it immediately. He had the same markings and color as my old dog, Willy boy, and he resembled him so much it was uncanny.

He seemed very shy, and would not go to anyone else at the party but me, and his owner said it was the first time he had let anyone pick him up except for him and his wife.

During the course of the party, Michael and I talked, and he told me that they might have to get rid of the dog because they lived in an apartment and the owner did not approve of animals. “We both really like the dog, ” said Michael, ” but we didn’t find out until after we got him that there were no pets allowed in our building.”

“We have asked the owners to give us permission to keep him,” said his wife Janet, ” but if he says no then we will either have to move or give him away.”

When the party was over, we got ready to leave, and as my wife was saying goodbye to her sister Anette, I shook hands with Michael and wished him a Merry Christmas.

We had talked during the evening about dogs and a number of other subjects, and I had mentioned that we were considering a dog, and if he had to give up his Cocker Spaniel we would be happy to take him.

“I’ll call you next week, “he said,” and let you know what happens.

I somehow new the following Tuesday when the phone rang that it was Michael calling about the dog.

“Hi,” he said, ” I have some good news and some bad news, depending on your point of view.” I felt a little disappointed, because I was sure that he had been given permission to keep the dog, but I was jumping to conclusions. “From your point,” Michael went on, ” it’s good news, but for us it’s bad news.”

They had been told to get rid of the dog or move, and apartments were hard to come by in the tight housing market, so it left them with little choice. “You can pick him up on Saturday morning,” Michael said, with a hint of sadness in his voice.

–Chapter 3–

We promised Michael and Janet that we would bring the dog to visit them often, and on the way home my wife decided we would change it’s name.

They had called him Dan, but my wife said that I had been talking about the dog I had when I was younger so much lately, that we should call him Willy boy.

It took a few days before he responded to the new name, but he took a liking to his new surroundings from the minute he got out of the car.

He ran up and down the lane way and checked all around the property for signs of other dogs.

After he satisfied himself that this was his domain, we brought him inside and settled in for the day.

That winter turned out to be very cold, with temperatures hovering well below zero for most of January and February, so Willy boy did not wander too far from home, preferring the warmth and comfort of the warm fireplace to the freezing weather outside.

But when spring came he began to spend longer periods in the outdoors and we had to go looking for him on more than one occasion.

He had a keen sense of smell, and as he began to grow over the summer months, he discovered that there were rabbits and other small animals in the nearby woods.

It wasn’t long before he began chasing anything that moved, including frogs and grasshoppers.

Nor did it take him long to develop the bad habits of his name sake, the Willy boy of old.

Not long after he began to explore the endless possibilities available to him in the neighbourhood, we began to receive phone calls from the cat owners in the area.

“That so-and-so dog of yours has got my cat up the tree and wont let him down, ” said an irate Mr. Lebinsky over the phone.

“Get over here and get that dang dog out of here before I call the dogcatcher,” he said.

I went over and picked up Willy boy and apologized to Mr. Labinsky, but I soon discovered that this was only the first of a barrage of calls from the local cat lovers.

Fortunately, he soon tired of the tamer variety of targets for the chase, and he turned his attention to the feistier critters at his disposal in the woods around the house.

Willy boy would spend hours sniffing around in the fields and shrubbery, and when he picked up a scent, he would invariably scoot off into the woods.

I had always been in fear of the dog running into a slow-moving porcupine and ending up with a mouthful of quills, but we were too close to the city and the wild animals at his disposal to chase were pretty much limited to squirrels and the odd rabbit who had strayed too close to the edge of the woods.

As the summer waned and the cooler temperatures of fall returned, Willy boy began finding less and less game wandering around in the woods, and he began returning his attention to the local felines.But we soon learned that there was one other animal who frequented our neighbourhood that had no respect for the boundaries of the city or for dogs.

Until now we had been lucky, and his first encounter with another type of kitty with a black stripe running up it’s back was a disastrous, although somewhat funny affair.

It was the first Christmas that he was with us, and we were out for our evening walk along the access road. It was a beautiful, unusually mild and clear evening, with the moonlight shining through the trees.

There had been reports of skunks in the area because of the exceptionally warm weather we were experiencing that winter.

He spotted the skunk first, sitting on the side of the road about 100 feet from where we were. At first I was sure that it was one of the several black cats from the neighbour hood and my wife and I called him to come back, but she never would listen to us.

“Just let him go,” said my wife, “the cat will lose him in the woods anyway.” Then, as the dog got closer, the animal turned and we could see the white stripe as clearly as a bell. They both disappeared into the woods, and a few minutes later, Willy boy let out a howl that confirmed my worst fears. He came out of the woods snorting like a stuck pig, and began rolling in the grass and rubbing his nose in the sand and gravel.

He stank to high heaven, and my wife went back to the house and got his leash so that we could tie him up. We doused him in tomato juice and gave him a bath out on the porch where it was warm, and left him out there for the night. It was a week before the smell finally went away, but it was not the last time we would find ourselves in that situation.

Over the next few years he must have been sprayed at least eight times, and we had gotten to a point where we would buy our tomato juice by the case when there was a sale.

But I guess over the years he had gotten just a little bit smarter, and the last time I had been with him when we encountered a skunk she had stayed far enough from the skunk so that it could not spray him. At least, for a little while.

I was amazed at the way that he would move in close enough to taunt the skunk, and then back up and make it follow her.

Once the skunk got too close he would back up again. This went on until the skunk got tired and turned around and headed into the bush.

Which was when Willy boy charged after it for the inevitable spraying.

As she got older and less active the skunk encounters decreased as did the cat terrorizing episodes, and when she was seven years old she began to spend more time sleeping around the house.

–Chapter 4–

It had been almost two years since Willie boy’s last skunk bouquet, and that year we had been invite to spent the Christmas holidays on the farm in Low, Quebec with my cousin Evelyn and her husband Ernie.

We would visit the farm, located a few miles in off the highway at Low at least two or three times a year. Willie boy had really taken to Ernie when we first went to the farm, and he told us to make sure we brought the dog along.

We left on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas, and when we arrived Willie boy was all over Ernie like she had found a long lost friend.

We settled in for the weekend and while Evelyn and my wife went about the chores of cooking and preparing things for Christmas day on Monday, Ernie took me out to his workshop on the pretext of showing me his new table saw.

He pulled out a bottle of Jim Bean Scotch from under the workbench, and as Willie boy curled up beside the wood stove, we commenced to hash over the old times and make plans for our trip into the bush to cut down a Christmas tree.

We had supper and we went to bed early because Ernie and I were heading into the bush tomorrow for the tree.

After we had breakfast, we went out in the bush a couple of hundred yards and chose a nice size Evergreen. We chopped it down and dragged it back and put it close to the wood stove in the workshop to dry out.

Willie boy had been snooping around just outside the workshop door while we were doing this, and she seemed reluctant to come in the house when we went in for dinner.

After lunch, Ernie headed out to the workshop as I finished my coffee, with Willie boy close behind him. Just as I was putting on my coat, I heard Willy boy barking furiously. I went out to see what all the commotion was about, and I could see the dog standing at the entrance to the workshop and staring inside.

As I approached the door I could see Ernie at the far end of the shop standing beside the wood stove, motionless. Then he pointed slowly to the other side of the room where Willie boy was staring, and there stood a skunk, with his tail up and pointed towards Ernie, ready to spread his bouquet. “Don’t move, ” I said to Ernie, not knowing what else to do.

“Where do you expect me to go?”, he said in a barely audible voice.

Just then, Willie boy began to move into the shop and caught the skunk’s eye. She move a little closer, and when she was sure that she had it’s full attention, she began to back slowly out of the shed, with the skunk edging along with her.

I moved back out of the line of fire, and as Ernie and I stood transfixed, Willie boy coaxed that darned old skunk right out into the open, as I had seen her do a few years ago back home.

Ernie let out a sigh of relief and headed out the side door of the shop where the skunk had been and came around to join me.

“I ain’t never seen the likes of that in all my years,” he said. “Where the heck did that dog learn that?.” “Years and years of experience,” I told him.

We watched as the drama unfolded and I explained to Ernie that we could expect the worst once the skunk got tired of being stared at and decided to take off. Sure enough, a minute or so later the skunk turned an high-tailed it for open country, and I watched, fully expecting Willy boy to follow in hot pursuit. But lo and behold!

To my amazement the dog turned around and ambled over and sat down between Ernie and I as if nothing had happened! “Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” said Ernie. “You and me both,” I chirped in. We were still shaking our heads as we brought the tree inside and told the girls what had happened.

That night, after we had decorated the tree, Ernie and I held up a couple of glasses of wine and proposed a toast to Willie boy. “Here’s to Willy boy, and his amazing, though fool-hardy feat today,” Said Ernie.

It’s the best Christmas bouquet we never got,” said his wife Evelyn.

“Yeah,” I said, as everyone laughed, “and it sure smells a lot better than the ones he used to bring us back home!”

THE END

Copyright@1995 / Rolev Publications

 

From a Collection of Christmas Stories by Bob Levac

THE CHRISTMAS KITTEN

IT seems to me that Winter back in the early part of this century was much more bearable than the mixed bag of weather we call winter nowadays. Maybe it was because I was only eight years old. The cold and blowing snow didn’t seem to bother us, and I can remember how a bunch of us kids would dig out tunnels in a snowbank in front of someone’s house. Our snow hut would remain intact through most of the winter and into early spring.

Because snow removal back then – by horse-drawn wagons, -  was limited to the roadways, our hideout would sometimes tower 10 feet into the air, looming indestructibly for the whole neighborhood to marvel at. In those days you could play street-hockey without fear of being run over by cars, and we were blessed with a limitless supply of frozen “pucks”, courtesy of the wagon horses.

It was during the Christmas holidays of one such winter that our Cocker Spaniel Willy, became a hero and earned the undying gratitude of a baby kitten we later named Chrissy…

It was a bitter late Monday afternoon, with a light snow falling and ice crystals hanging in the air. Our breath formed mist clouds when we spoke, almost as if it were cigarette smoke, and the grey overcast sky indicated heavier snow was on the way. It was also the day before Christmas of1945.

My brother Gerry and I had just finished playing a vigorous game of hockey with a bunch of kids from around the corner on Kenny street. Our dog Willy, as usual, had been helping Johnny Curran, our fearless netminder. He would grab the “puck” every time it was around our goal and take off down the street with it, refusing to let anyone take it away from him. Our supply was beginning to dwindle, so Gerry chased him home about ten minutes before the game ended. It was around four o’clock, so we decided we’d better head home before mom came looking for us.

Our house on Rochester street in Ottawa had a wooden veranda out back, and as we came in the yard Willy was peering under it, his rear end  sticking up in the air. His head and nose were almost completely out of sight. As we approached, we could hear the tiny cries of what sounded like a baby kitten coming from underneath the veranda. There was only about six inches of clearance, and the first thing that I thought of was that Willy would get stuck if he tried to go in any further.

Besides, he was a confirmed cat-chaser, and the last thing that poor kitten needed was Willy to add to whatever distress it was already in.

But before either of us could grab him, Willy wriggled from side to side and disappeared under the veranda.

“I’ll go get Dad”, Gerry said, and took off up the steps and into the house.

Just as Mom, Dad and Gerry came down the steps, Willy’s butt reappeared at the opening where he had scurried in. There had been a loud commotion under the veranda, and the cat’s anguished cries had ceased, leaving me to think the worst.

I grabbed Willy’s hind legs, and inch by inch we eased him out through the opening. When we finally got his head all the way out I could hardly believe my eyes! Gently clamped between his teeth, he had a tiny waif of a kitten by the scruff of it’s neck, much like an old mother cat when she carries her newborns. The kitten’s eyes were glassy, and it looked as if it were frozen solid. The tiny mouth was moving, but no sound could be heard. My mother tenderly pried the dog’s mouth open, and cupped the kitten between her warm palms. She hurried into the house with all of us following close behind, leaving poor Willy standing there with his head cocked side ways in bewildered at all the confusion.

Mom wrapped the kitten in a big, fluffy towel and stroked it gently until it began to show signs of life. When at last it had recovered sufficiently, dad put an old pillow in a box next to the wood stove and gingerly placed the kitten in it. Willy promptly sauntered over and sniffed the bewildered kitten thoroughly.

“Someone’s cat must have had a litter under the veranda,” Dad said.”It looks like the mother moved them to a safer place, and forgot this one”.

“She’s lucky to be alive” Mom added, as she ushered us into the kitchen for supper. After a lot of discussion between them, it was decided we could keep the little kitten as a Christmas present, if we would look after it ourselves. We hurriedly ate, then spent an hour or so fussing over the kitten, completely ignoring Willy, who was used to receiving all the attention. When we went to bed, Willy was peering into the box, as if still trying to figure out just exactly why he had dragged it out from under the veranda in the first place.

Early the next morning, we hurried downstairs to open our presents under the Christmas tree. What our eyes beheld among the presents was the last thing we could have expected to see! Willy was curled up in a ball under the Christmas tree, sleeping peacefully. Cuddled up close to his warm stomach, and almost completely hidden under Willy’s furry tail, was the baby kitten. Dad figured Willy must have taken the kitten out of the box just as he had pulled it out from under the veranda, because the box was too high for the baby kitten to crawl out of on it’s own.

That was when we decided to name her Chrissy, after the Christmas tree.

For the next few months, the kitten could be found snuggled up to Willy during the long chilly nights, but when the warmer weather came, the cat adopted a cool corner of the kitchen to sleep alone in. Over the months, Willy and Chrissy had become playmates. When the jousting got too rough, the kitten would cuff the dog a few times then find a safe hiding place.

No other cat in the neighborhood was safe if Willy spotted it, but Chrissy could do anything she wanted with him.

*******

WILLY’S chasing days came to an abrupt halt in the early Fall, when he was struck by a car while in hot pursuit of Mr. Baker’s old tomcat. We were all saddened by the loss and for a time Gerry and I felt as though our hearts would burst. In those days, burying your dog or cat in your own back yard was not frowned upon as it would be nowadays. Dad picked out a spot in the corner of the yard, under a shade tree where Willy used to lay for hours and sleep on hot, sultry days.

We had not seen Chrissy all day, but we were too broken up to worry the cat, and after saying what he thought were the appropriate words for the occasion, Dad comforted Gerry and me with ice cream cones at the corner store. When we returned, Chrissy was curled up in a ball on the exact spot where dad had buried Willy, as if she were offering him the warmth and protection he had given her over the past winter. She could often be found there, until the colder days of Winter came and a thick blanket of snow obscured Willy’s resting place.

Soon, the excitement of Christmas season rolled around again, and Willy was all but forgotten with our never-ending rounds of hockey games, and nightly tobogganing down the Louisa street hill at breakneck speeds. Chrissy had replaced Willy as the main object of our affections when we needed to hold something soft and huggable. She also replaced Willy as Johnny Curran’s unwanted assistant goal keeper, but unlike Willy she refused to be chased from the action, ending many of our hockey games before their completion because she would steal our supply of horse-pucks.

*********

Unlike the previous year, this Christmas eve passed uneventfully. When we came down stairs on Christmas morning, Willy and the drama we witnessesd last year were the furthest thing from our minds. But despite the joy of Christmas day, Gerry and I both had tears in our eyes when we saw Chrissy curled up under the Christmas tree exactly as she had been one year ago with Willy.. With a heavy feeling in my heart never before experienced in my young life, I knelt down and held her in my arms. Mom and dad were standing in the kitchen doorway and I could see the tears streaming down my mother’s cheeks.

Chrissy raised her head and looked around, gazed up at me with a look of sadness in her eyes I will never forget, then jumped down and returned to where she had been under the tree.

Chrissy was with us for three years after that, and she would spent a lot of time curled up under the shade tree in the back where Willy was buried.

When the winter holidays came, every Christmas morning she could be found in the exact spot where she and Willy had slept that Christmas night.

She had become a real scrapper over the years and she fought ferociously with any cat that dared invade her territory. Toward the end, it had become common place for her to wander off and not come back for days, sometimes even weeks. The last anyone saw of Chrissy, was when Gerry spotted her crawling under the veranda, through the same opening that Willy had shimmied through to her rescue, so many years ago.

—-THE END—

Copyright@Rolev  Valley Publishing 1995

A quick comment on your story about Chrissy the cat, in which you so vividly express conditions of days gone by: Your description sets the atmosphere, where you allowed us a glimpse into your family life in Canada. Your childhood memories described seem very real to read. I thank you for sharing this story. I can’t imagine Christmas with snow, which seem so normal to you, in the Northern Hemisphere, whereas you can’t imagine Christmas roast dinner, served in 35 degrees centigrade heat :-)  

I wish you a blessed Christmas, my friend, in 2012.
 73
Andre VK7AE

 

 

Oct. 8/2012

 

NEW COLUMN FORMAT

Since the beginning, the main purpose of this Blog was to keep seniors around the world up to date on the benefits of Hamsphere for elderly operators such as my self. I have welcomed comments and asked for input of any kind but have received little or no response. So, rather than abandon the column altogether, I have decided to write about anything and everything that concerns Hamsphere or any of our operators. Again, if anyone has any suggestions or comments, please fire away!

OLE COD-GERS MEET ON OCTOBER 1/12

Hats off to Brian G1HAH, for his excellent control of the meeting of the Ole Cod-Gers net on 20 metres, frequency 142.90, on Monday, October 1st.  As chairman, he was under a lot of pressure to keep the meeting flowing at a smooth pace because of the large number of operators who showed up to participate in the session. The last several meetings have been very informative, and attendance has grown steadily over the past couple of months. The forum is open to any and all topics, so if you are interested in getting information or discussing your personal preference topic be sure to show up for registration early for the next meeting on November   5th at 19.00 hrs. UTC time.

Recent Incidents: Please!  Respect the Administrators                                              

All Hamsphere members are aware and appreciative of the courteous and respectful behavior that is predominant between operators, which is a major factor in promoting new friendships around the world. But as is always the case, there are always individuals who think the rules do not apply to them, and they will knowingly interrupt QISO’s and walk over top of other operators who are in the middle of a transmission. There has been an outburst of stupidity and childishness from some new trial members lately but with hundreds of frequencies available to Hamsphere operators, it is literally impossible for the administrators to always be in the right place at the right time, but if the offenders persist in their quest to disrupt normal operating procedures, their call signs will be relayed to aministrators on frequency, who will then deal with the situation as was the case with most of these recent incidents.

In most cases operators are not even aware they are committing minor offences, such as over-modulating and splattering on adjacent frequencies, and a warning from an administrator is usually sufficient to correct the situation. But these recent incidents were not accidental and the offenders quickly learned that they would not be tolerated.

Has Hamsphere changed your life?

Sometimes something happens in our lives that changes our normal routines and our outlook on life in general. I have spoken to many operators around the world who have had nothing but good things to say about how the program has improved their quality of life; meeting new friends, learning better English, finding out facts about other countries from people who live there, giving many older operators a new outlook and purpose in life and many other reasons.

We would like to hear what Hamsphere has done for you and feature your comments as a trailer to our weekly column. Send your comments and feelings about Hamsphere to:

robertlevac@videotron.ca and put your call sign in the subject box.

Here’s a chance for all you Hamspherians to show Kelly how much you appreciate his hard work in making this program possible for all radio enthusiasts around the world.

 

ADMINISTRATORS: Frequency Police

It is highly unlikely you will ever experience a bad cop good cop situation on Hamsphere, where you will be forced to sign a confession and face judgement for the unspeakable crime you have committed against your fellow radio operators. But make no mistake about it, if you do not follow the proper protocol when transmitting on Hamsphere, you will face the wrath of the frequency police, better known as administrators.

And although they may not wear a sidearm or boast flashing lights, if for some reason you are in violation of the rules and regulations you will quickly learn that they do have the power to force you to cease and desist by booting you off of the system.

 

 

NOT ALWAYS BAD COPS

Another façade of the Administrator is more likely to be in play on a daily basis because of the ever-growing popularity of Hamsphere. The number of new members is increasing rapidly, and even after following the instructions in the help section, many of the new operators still experience problems in the basic operations of the system.

More often than not, an administrator will offer their assistance in walking the new operator through the basic aspects of logging a QSO and sending and receiving a QSL card to confirm the operators contact with another station. It can be an exasperating and long drawn out session before a successful conclusion is reached, but the gratitude from the new user makes the experience worth while for the administrator.

Just how much expensive equipment and hard work is there to reaching radio operators around the world on the Hamsphere network?

The last time I even thought about buying a transceiver I quickly realised that anything viable for listening to the amateur radio bands  was way beyond my financial means. We are talking about the 50′s era, when at the age of 13 my love for the hobby began to manifest. But I did manage to somehow come into possession of a Hallicrafters rig, but I must admit I had no clue of operation procedures for such a magnificent beast.   But somehow, after climbing  up several trees and roof tops to string up of hundreds of feet of wire and some incredibly structured coat hanger antennas, I did manage to conquer the beast and enjoy several years of morse code and ham radio transmissions.   I dread to think of the consequences of such an undertaking at this stage of the game,. because I fear the only wires involved would be those from the heart monitor.   There are two sides to every story, and most True Blue Ham operator will not readily relinquish their stance against virtual radio, as compared to “real radio”, but sometimes financial and physical circumstances may initiate a compromise.   For most Seniors who have a passion for the hobby, licensed or not, Hamsphere is that compromise. The joys of world wide friendship through radio communication can not be measured by a call sign, whether numerical or phonetic. What is important is the ambiance between operators around the world, so an enjoyable QSO from someone across the the ocean or in your own country can not and will not be measured by distinguishing between a desk top or laptop computer and a room full of sophisticated Ham gear.   The important thing is that for Seniors who are, or have inspired to be Ham operators, a compromise is now a financial and physical reality they can indulge in and enjoy throughout their well deserved Golden years.   -30-

The following information was submitted by RAY/AH6TY and may be of interest to some of the Ham operators on Hamsphere.

Aloha Robert/9hs1658 DE:RAY/AH6TY   Info on USS MISSOURI @ Pearl Harbor,Hawaii;The Missouri call sign is[KH6BB] THE HARC[Honolulu Amateur radio Club],transmits every Tuesday morning Hawaii time[10:00AM-1:00PM  + OR - depending on propagation. Usually on 10-15-20-40 Mtrs Bands in the general class freq! For more in fo look at [QRZ.COM} under my call sign[AH6TY} Also we just had a special events[Hawaii QSO party]aug 24-27th,running cw & ssb. Also info on my Face book web page,under my name[Raymond Oropesa] I also work on [skype]- [ echolink] -[cq100] & [Hamsphere] also work 2mtrs & 440 repeaters from Hawaii on ECHOLINK;under my own call sign[ah6ty] 73,s & Good DX all my best to you & your family ALOHA & mahalo RAY/AH6TY

 

Have a nice day! Your comments would be appreciated.   robertlevac@videotron.ca   9hs1658

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               HAVE A GOOD DAY!